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THE SIKHS 







'/ 



E 




THE NATIONAL HERO OF THE SIKHS- 
RANJ1T SINGH. MAHARAJA OF THE PUNJAB, 1801-1839. 

After a sketch by the Hon. 1 \ at Lahore, 

■'■cr 1838, during Lord Auckland's visit. 






THE SIKHS 



GENERAL 

SIR JOHN Jr H.' GORDON, K.C.B. 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR 



Hi' 7 




WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 

EDINBURGH AND LONDON 

MCMIV 



All Rights reserved 



PEE FACE, 



No visitors at the celebration of the King's 
Coronation in London received a heartier 
welcome than the soldiers of the many- 
races and classes who so well represented 
the Indian Army. Our home people were 
able to see the quality of the men who 
compose it, while they themselves were 
enabled to form a clearer conception of 
Britain's strength and resources and the 
character of her people. They were su- 
premely pleased at being present on such 
an auspicious occasion as the crowning of 
their King-Emperor, and carried away with 
them, and left behind them, feelings that 
should draw closer the ties which bind 



vi PREFACE. 

India and its people to the British Crown. 
Politically it was a practical gain for all. 

Conspicuous among them were the Sikhs, 
— tall, bearded, dignified-looking men, in- 
telligent and keen observers, — whose sol- 
dierly bearing was the admiration of all 
who beheld them. The name Sikh is rem- 
iniscent of very hard fighting against us 
fifty years ago, and of equally hard fighting 
for us on many a field since. Belonging 
to an exceptional as well as a fine martial 
race, more than ordinary interest is attached 
to them on account of their origin and re- 
ligion. In the following pages I have given 
a short sketch of this warlike race, and of 
their rise through much tribulation to power 
as a nation, and transformation by the for- 
tune of war into loyal and hearty subjects 
of the Great Queen Victoria. In addition 
to personal notes made during many years' 
service with Sikhs, I have drawn informa- 
tion from various old works relating to 



PREFACE. 



Vll 



them by Malcolm, Cunningham, M'Gregor, 
Smyth, and others, and also from the His- 
tory of the Punjab by Syad Muhammad 
Latif and Dr Trumpp's Translation of the 
' Granth/ the Sacred Book of the Sikhs. 



J. J. H. GORDON. 



35 Onslow Square, London, 
1st September 1904. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS . .... .1 

II. NANAK THE REFORMER, FOUNDER OF THE SIKH SECT . 13 

III. SPREAD OF SIKHISM 27 

IV. GURU GOVIND SINGH, FOUNDER OF THE KHALSA, THE 

SIKH COMMONWEALTH 37 

V. STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA FOR POSSESSION OF THE 

PUNJAB ........ 55 

VI. THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES EVOLUTION OF THE SIKH 

SARDARS ........ 70 

VII. SARDAR RANJIT SINGH ...... 79 

VIII. MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH ...... 88 

IX. DECLINE OF THE SIKH MONARCHY . . . .119 

X. THE FIRST SIKH WAR WITH THE BRITISH, 1845-46 . 135 

xi. the first sikh war — continued . . . .151 

XII. THE SECOND SIKH WAR, 1848-49 ANNEXATION, 1849 . 165 

XIII. THE ' GRANTH,' THE SIKH SACRED BOOK RELIGIOUS 

OBSERVANCES . . . . . . .183 

XIV. THE SIKHS UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN . . .201 



ILLUSTBATIONS. 



PAGE 
THE NATIONAL HERO OP THE SIKHS— RANJIT SINGH, MAHA- 
RAJA OP THE PUNJAB, 1801-39 . . . Frontispiece 
BABA SIR KHEM SINGH, BEDI, OP KULLAR, K.C.I.E., LINEAL 

DESCENDANT IN THE FOURTEENTH GENERATION FROM BABA 

NANAK, THE SIKH REFORMER . . . .24 

GURU GOVIND SINGH'S ARMED DISCIPLES, THE EARLY SOLDIERS 

OP THE KHALSA ...... 42 

KHALSA HORSEMEN MAKING A DASH BY NIGHT TO AMRITSAR . 58 

A SIKH SARDAR ....... 70 

AN AKALI SIKH SOLDIER . . . . .74 

MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH REVIEWING HIS ARMY . . 102 

SHER SINGH, MAHARAJA OF THE PUNJAB, 1841-43 . . 122 

REGULAR AND IRREGULAR INFANTRY, SIKH ARMY, 1845 . 152 

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, AMRITSAR . . . .184 

CEREMONY OP SIKH BAPTISM . . . . .192 

SIKH SOLDIERS BURNING THEIR DEAD ON THE BATTLEFIELD 

AT PAIWAR KOTAL, AFGHANISTAN, 1878 . .198 

HIGHLANDERS AND SIKHS STORMING THE SECUNDRA BAGH, 

LUCKNOW, 1875 ...... 218 

SIKH CAVALRY AND INFANTRY OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS, INDIAN 

ARMY, PRESENT DAY ..... 224 

MORNING PRAYERS AT A SIKH CHAPEL IN THE REGIMENTAL 

LINES ....... 228 

A NOTABLE SIKH CHIEF, COLONEL HIS HIGHNESS RAJA SIR 

HIRA SINGH OF NABHA, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., COLONEL 14TH 

FEROZEPORE SIKHS, INDIAN ARMY .... 232 



THE SIKHS, 



CHAPTER I. 

ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 

Of all the many peoples of India none 
possesses for us greater or more varied his- 
torical interest than the Sikhs, a people 
who four hundred years ago as a reformed 
religious sect sprang from the ranks of the 
Jats, a numerous as well as the most im- 
portant agricultural tribe in the Punjab, 
descended from the ancient Scythian Getse. 
They stand out prominently as men of action, 
who have preserved inherited racial charac- 
teristics foreign to Orientals, and evolved 
themselves by the strength of their own arms 
into one of the finest military types to be 



2 THE SIKHS. 

found anywhere. Their story furnishes a 
stirring and romantic chapter in the world's 
history, carrying the imagination back in 
full flight over the lapse of centuries. 

Taking their rise among the disciples of 
the peaceful JSTanak, a Jat Hindu religious 
reformer, they ultimately, under the pres- 
sure of persecution, became a community 
of warriors, who by the genius of a young 
Sikh chief, Ranjit Singh, were welded into 
a nation at the dawn of the nineteenth 
century. After they lost his strong guid- 
ing hand they struggled desperately with 
us for supremacy in several pitched battles 
on the Sutlej in 1845-46, when Ave found 
them indeed foemen worthy of our steel. 
Though then disastrously defeated, they 
doggedly clung to the idea that, after all, 
they were a match for the British, and rose 
a second time three years later. Again 
they fought with all their vigorous might, 
but being completely vanquished in the 
open field, they then, like brave men as 
they are, submitted to the decree of war, 






ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 3 

and in 1849 were absorbed with the Punjab 
into the British Indian Empire. They rose 
a third time in 1857, but then it was 
shoulder to shoulder with us to aid in 
beating down the revolt of our native 
army in Hindostan, when they flocked in 
thousands to the standards of their late 
conquerors at the summons of Sir John 
Lawrence, the great Pro-Consul of the Pun- 
jab, whose good government had converted 
them in a few years into loyal subjects of 
the British Crown. None have fought more 
stoutly and stubbornly against us, none more 
loyally and gallantly for us, than the Sikhs. 
They have taken part with us in many a 
"far-flung battle-line" in Asia and Africa, 
and become the symbol to India of all that 
is loyal and courageous. Wherever there 
has been hard fighting to be done, there 
they have been found in the forefront, 
maintaining their high reputation for stead- 
fast fidelity, dogged tenacity, and dauntless 
courage, — the undying heritage of the Sikhs. 
As they fought for their Gurus and for their 



4 THE SIKHS. 

Maharaja, so they have fought for Britain. 
Loyalty is in their blood. 

The Punjab — the land of the five rivers, 
as the name signifies — is the home-land of 
the Sikhs. Through it passes the great 
highway from Central Asia, along which 
from the remotest antiquity invading hosts 
have marched bent on the plunder and 
conquest of India. In prehistoric times 
hordes of Aryans and Scythians surged 
through its northern mountain gateways. 
There Alexander and his Greeks fought 
and conquered, annexing it as a province 
of Macedon, while from the eleventh to 
the eighteenth century Afghan, Tartar, and 
Persian armies made it the scene of in- 
cessant war. There the battles were 
fought for the rich prize of Hindostan. 
Bred in a locality which has had to 
bear the brunt of every invasion, and im- 
bued with the traditions of these long 
centuries of tumult, the peasantry were 
as proficient with the sword as with the 
plough, passing to and from the pur- 



ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 5 

suits of war and peace according to the 
times. 

The origin of the Jat tribe has been the 
subject of much discussion among distin- 
guished oriental writers, but the weight of 
authority is all in favour of it being a relic 
of the Scythians, who at various times be- 
fore and after the Christian era, swarming 
off from their camping - grounds in High 
Asia, pushed their way into the Punjab 
and established their dynasties there with 
the northern form of Budhism. The Indo- 
Aryans, who had occupied India many cen- 
turies before, vainly attempted to stem the 
torrent of these fresh invaders from the 
north, and waged constant war with them 
until, according to ancient legendary his- 
tory, they gained a great victory in the 
middle of the sixth century a.d. and "freed 
India from the Huns," by which name 
these Scythians were also known. After 
this Budhism gradually gave way to the 
ascendancy of the Brahmans, under whose 
influence Hinduism had lost all resemblance 



6 THE SIKHS. 

to the simple old religion taught in the 
Vedas — the worship of one Supreme and 
only God. 

We have but a dim outline of these early 
times from ancient Indian literature, Greek 
and Chinese writers, traditions, temple in- 
scriptions, and coins. A portion of the 
Scythian invaders, descendants of the Massa- 
Getge of old Asia, were called Getes, from 
whom the modern Jats are said to have 
sprung, the name having been so trans- 
posed in progress of time. Arrian, the 
Greek historian of Alexander's campaign 
in Asia, mentions that the Getes, the Indo- 
Scythes as he terms them, who served as 
allies of Darius, formed the elite of his 
army in the great battle of Arbela on the 
Tigris, 331 b.c, when the Persian Empire, 
which then extended into the Punjab, was 
overthrown by Alexander. He dwells with 
pleasure on Indo-Scythic valour. Colonel 
Tod, the most scholarly of Indian writers 
on the old races, in his classical 'Annals 
of Rajasthan/ compiled eighty years ago, 






ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 7 

identifies the Jats of his day with the 
ancient Scythian Gete of Central Asia 
mentioned by Arrian, tracing their de- 
scendants under the names of Gete, Yothi, 
Yuti, Jote, to Jit and Jat, the last two 
being those by which the tribe was then 
known in Rajputana and the Punjab. He 
also describes an existing old temple in- 
scription which shows that the Jits were 
in power in the Punjab in the fifth century 
a.d., — the memorial of a Jit prince of Lal- 
pura dated 409, — and observes, " These Jit 
princes of Lalpura in the Punjab were the 
leaders of that very colony of the Yuti 
from the Jaxartes who, as recorded by De 
Guignes, crossed the Indus in the fifth cen- 
tury and possessed themselves of the Pun- 
jab." Apparently these Jits were one of 
the most important of the Scythic tribes, 
and entered the Punjab in large numbers 
at the same time as their congeners the 
Goths were invading Italy. This was their 
last irruption in force into India. Small 
bodies of emigrants are said to have con- 



8 THE SIKHS. 

tinued to follow up to the eleventh century, 
when the Getic Empire on the Oxus was 
overwhelmed in the tide of Islamism, many 
fugitives then fleeing to join their kind in 
the Indus valley, where they formed a 
powerful community, as is shown in the 
interesting records of the first invasion of 
India by Mahmud of Ghuzni, in the eleventh 
century, which led to the occupation of La- 
hore, and the establishment of the Mahom- 
edan Empire in India after a struggle on 
the frontier lasting for two centuries. 

The Jats now emerged from the nebu- 
lous region of their history, and hence- 
forward they were never lost to sight. 
At every step taken by the Mahomedan 
invaders from the north they encountered 
the Jats, who showed themselves a power 
to be reckoned with. They so vigorously 
opposed Mahmud's army in the passage of 
the Indus, and harassed his line of march, 
that he had in person to lead his troops 
against them in 1027. The famous Tamer- 
lane in the fourteenth century, at the 



ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 9 

head of his mighty Tartar host, felt their 
weight, and waged a war of extermination 
against them ; while the Emperor Baber 
in his Memoirs writes in 1525 that in all 
his expeditions into India he was assailed 
by multitudes of Jits. These Afghan and 
Moghul invaders knew them by the name 
of Jits, but they were then known in the 
Punjab as Jats. Their early settlements 
were along the whole valley of the Indus 
from the north down to Sindh. Pliny and 
Ptolemy in their writings mention the 
Jatii of these regions. By the sixteenth 
century they had spread over the Punjab 
to the deserts of Rajputana and south to 
the banks of the Jumna as the results of 
wars and tumults following the Moslem 
invasions, when they were brushed aside 
for the time. To-day they are found in 
all these localities rooted to the soil. 
Among them the tradition is still strong 
of the Central Asian region being the 
cradle of their race. As the latest comers 
from the bracing north, recruited for 



10 THE SIKHS. 

several centuries by fresh blood, and 
established in a climate less liable to lead 
to deterioration than that of the plains of 
Hindostan, the Jats have maintained their 
hardy northern strain, and with it phys- 
ical superiority and force of character. 

The Indo- Aryans, who had settled in 
India many centuries earlier, about 1500 
b.c, looked on these Scythian invaders 
with scorn as inferiors, and termed them 
" excluded heretics." In the estimation of 
the orthodox Hindus the Jats hold an 
inferior social position below that of their 
leading castes. Their customs, habits, and 
indulgences, prohibited by the ordinances 
which govern the ordinary Hindus, go to 
confirm the tradition of their Getic origin ; 
for though there may be nothing of the 
Scythian in their language, there is un- 
doubtedly much in their customs, which 
have survived long after the old tongue 
has disappeared through changes in dynas- 
ties and religion. There is, therefore, the 
strongest ground for assuming that this 



ORIGIN OF THE SIKHS. 11 

warlike Jat tribe of to-day, to which the 
Sikhs belong, are the descendants of the 
Gete, the most conspicuous of the races 
of ancient Asia, whose bravery in fighting 
the Greeks hand to hand elicited the warm 
admiration of the Macedonian generals, 
as related by Arrian. Wars and anarchy 
failed to destroy them. They have braved 
the storms of centuries and preserved con- 
tinuity with the past, emerging at last 
from barbarism into light, civilisation, and 
good government under the British Crown 
as an industrious, bold, and loyal people 
who have never broken with their tra- 
ditions for tenacious energy and military 
virtues, and who to-day furnish us with 
thousands of splendid soldiers fit to go 
anywhere and stand in line against any 
enemy. 

The rise* and progress of the Sikhs 
present one of those strange repetitions 
which have occurred in the life of nations ; 
for though in a precise sense they were at 
first but a religious sect, later on, bound 



12 THE SIKHS. 

together by the additional tie of military 
and political organisation, they, as a united 
people, recruited from the most important 
race in the Punjab, were, under the master 
hand of their Maharaja, Ranjit Singh, con- 
verted into an individual nation when the 
decay of the Moghul Empire gave this Jat 
Sikh chief the opportunity to establish a 
territorial dominion over the regions col- 
onised and ruled in former times by his 
ancestors, the ancient Jits. 



CHAPTER II. 

NANAK THE REFORMER, FOUNDER OF THE 
SIKH SECT. 

The Sikh religion originated with the teach- 
ing of Nanak, who from being a wandering 
Hindu devotee settled down about the year 
1500 as a missionary preacher to his 
countrymen, proclaiming a deistic doctrine, 
embracing what was best in the two 
ancient faiths of Hindu and Budhist — the 
personal God of the one and the spiritual 
equality of the other. He was born in 
1469 in a village near Lahore in the 
Punjab, the son of a Jat farmer and small 
trader. As a boy he was thoughtful, re- 
served, and inclined to devotion. He 
early showed the bent of his mind by 
puzzling his teacher with questions as to 



14 THE SIKHS. 

the existence of God. At the age of nine 
he shocked the family Brahman priest by- 
refusing to be invested with the sacred 
thread at the Hindu ceremony of initia- 
tion, contending that it was a useless 
form. As a youth, to the distress of his 
father, he was antagonistic to the ways of 
the world, despising money-making. Later 
on marriage failed to divert his mind from 
the religious turn. He then at the age of 
thirty-two became a public preacher, and, 
garbed as a fakir, left his home to attain 
religious wisdom by travel and intercourse 
with others in foreign lands, accompanied 
by four companions as disciples, one of 
them being the family bard. His sayings 
and the verses he composed in praise of 
God were sung by this minstrel to the 
sound of the rabab, or Eastern lute, as he 
said the "skill of the strings" was neces- 
sary to attract listeners. His family now 
looked on him as mad. In his ardent 
desire to find a resting - place among the 
conflicting creeds of men he wandered 



NANAK THE REFORMER 15 

over all India, and visited Ceylon, Mecca, 
Persia, and Kabul. The story is told of 
him that while at Mecca the Kazi observed 
him asleep with his feet towards the holy 
Kaaba, the object of Mahomedan devotion. 
He was angrily roused, abused as an 
infidel, and asked how he dared to dis- 
honour God's house by turning his feet 
towards it. "Turn then, if you can, in a 
direction where God's house is not," was 
his reply. 

On returning to his home after his wan- 
derings he threw aside the garb and habits 
of the fakir, saying that the numerous 
religions and castes which he had seen 
in the world were the devices of men ; 
that he had read Mahomedan Korans and 
Hindu Purans, but God was nowhere found 
in them. All was error. He now taught 
his followers that abandonment of the world 
after the manner of ascetics was quite un- 
necessary ; that true religion was inter- 
woven in the daily affairs and occupations 
of life ; that God treated all men with 



16 THE SIKHS. 

equal favour ; and that between the hermit 
in his cell and the king in his palace no 
difference was made in respect of the 
kingdom to come. "God will not ask 
man of what caste or race he is. He will 
ask him what he has done." As a man 
sows, that shall he reap. He contended 
against the furious bigotry of the Mahom- 
edans and the deep-rooted superstition and 
caste thraldom of the Hindus, and aimed 
at reforming and reconciling the two creeds. 
He proclaimed the unity of God and the 
equality of all men before God ; con- 
demned idolatry and inculcated a righteous 
religious life with brotherly love to one 
another. He said he was but a man 
among men, mortal and sinful as they 
were ; that God was all in all, and that 
belief in the Creator, self- existent, omni- 
present and omnipotent, without beginning 
and everlasting, was the only way to sal- 
vation — the one thing needful being firm 
reliance on God, who was to be worshipped 
in spirit and in truth ; to have abiding 



NANAK THE REFORMER. 17 

companionship with Him, to let His name 
be continually in their hearts and on their 
lips, and to pray without ceasing. "The 
just shall live by faith." This was the key- 
stone of his doctrine. 

He now no longer avoided society, but 
lived as the head of his family and as a 
patriarch, preaching openly at all the 
country fairs in his neighbourhood. He 
met with violent opposition from the Hindu 
zealots, who reproached him for laying 
aside the habits of a fakir. "A holy 
teacher has no defence but the purity of 
his doctrine. The world may change, but 
the Creator is unchangeable," was his 
reply. No Brahman of any note now ac- 
knowledged him. The Jat peasantry formed 
the mass of his disciples. They resorted 
from all parts, attracted by his preaching, 
and he soon exercised great influence over 
vast numbers, who looked on him as their 
"Guru" or spiritual guide. With their 
offerings he established almshouses where 
-crowds of the poor and helpless were fed. 

B 



18 THE SIKHS. 

He died at his home in 1538, at the age 
of seventy-one. 

He was a contemporary of Luther, and, 
like the German Reformer, he preached no 
new faith, but contended that religion had 
become obscured and transformed during 
the course of centuries. One of the stories 
told of him in his crusade against the 
superstitious ceremonies and forms of the 
priesthood is that on one occasion seeing 
some Brahmans at their morning devotions 
by a stream baling out water with their 
hands facing the east, going through the 
ceremony of quenching the thirst of dead 
clients in another world, he, on the opposite 
bank, began to do the same facing the 
west. The Brahmans, thinking him a fakir 
out of his senses, remonstrated with him, 
saying that all his labours were in vain, 
and that he could not hope to relieve the 
thirst of the departed by such heretical 
actions. Nanak replied, "I am not giving 
water to my dead, but irrigating my fields 
in Kartarpur to prevent them drying up 



NANAK THE REFORMER. 19 

by the scorching heat of the sun." " Water- 
ing your fields in Kartarpur, such a long 
way off! How can these handfuls of water 
benefit your fields at such a distance ? " the 
Brahmans scoffingly replied. " How can, 
then, your waters," rejoined JSTanak, " reach 
the next world and quench the thirst of 
your dead ? If the water cannot benefit 
my crops, which are in this world, how 
can it benefit your dead in another?" 

Nanak's followers were called Sikhs, from 
sicsha, a Sanscrit word signifying disciple 
or devoted follower, corrupted into Sikh, 
pronounced Sick, and he was called by 
them Baba JSTanak or Guru JNanak— Father 
Nanak or the Spiritual guide. When he 
felt that his end was approaching he ap- 
pointed as his successor in the Guru ship 
one of his most faithful followers, passing 
over his two sons despite their remon- 
strances, one of them being an ascetic and 
the other a man of the world. He selected 
whom he thought most fit by moral courage 
and devotion to the cause to carry on his 



20 THE SIKHS. 

ministry unimpaired. He did not consider 
the office he had created a hereditary one, 
but this was later on brought about by a 
father's strong affection for a devoted and 
ambitious daughter. The religion which 
Nanak founded would have sunk into 
oblivion, as befell that of other reformers 
in India before him, but his foresigltt in 
creating an apostleship and selecting a 
successor before his death saved it. 

Sikhism had its root solely in religious 
aspirations. It was a revolt against the 
tyranny of Brahmanism. On throwing off 
the yoke, Nanak and his disciples reverted 
instinctively to the old theistic creed of 
their ancestors. The simple-minded Jat 
peasantry to whom he spoke were inclined 
to the reception of religious reform. Brah- 
manism was not so deep-rooted in them as 
in the mass of Hindus in Hindostan ; regard 
for caste was weak, that of tribe and race 
strong. Their old Getic faith had left a 
lasting impression on their independent 
character which profoundly modified their 



NANAK THE REFORMER. 21 

beliefs as Hindus, for the ancient Getes, 
according to Herodotus, were Theists, and 
held the tenets of the soul's immortality. 
With the spread and ascendancy of Hindu- 
ism idolatry and priestcraft reigned supreme, 
and caste exclusiveness, with its narrow re- 
strictions, pressed heavily on the lower 
classes, who had little consolation to hope 
for in the next world for the hardships of 
the present. 

As the period between the downfall of 
Budhism and the advent of Islam was of 
comparatively short duration, the doctrine 
of the innate superiority of Brahmanism 
was rudely shaken by the success of the 
Mahomedan invaders, inspired with the 
religious zeal of their new faith, proclaim- 
ing the unity of God, denouncing idolatry, 
and disregarding the bonds of caste. Early 
in the fifteenth century Hindu reformers 
had risen in Hindostan who seized upon 
the doctrine of man's equality before God, 
assailed the worship of idols, the authority 
of Hindu Shasters and Mahomedan Koran, 



22 THE SIKHS. 

and the exclusive use of a learned language 
in religious books unintelligible to the lower 
orders. They strove to emancipate men's 
minds from priestcraft and polytheism, and 
advanced in some measure the cause of 
enlightenment. The people were appealed 
to in their own tongue and told that per- 
fect devotion was compatible with the 
ordinary duties of the world. These re- 
formers passed away and left no successors, 
but their writings were very popular among 
the people from being in a spoken language. 
JNanak's susceptible mind had been influ- 
enced by these writings, some of which 
were afterwards embodied in the sacred 
book of the Sikhs. 

Nanak was the only Hindu reformer who 
established a national faith. He rose out 
of the dust as a great preacher with a 
great theme which he boldly proclaimed, 
waking up the people to a higher notion 
of religion. It is a strange coincidence 
that from being a Hindu devotee he did 
so at the very time when Luther, the 



NANAK THE REFORMER. 23 

German monk, nailed his famous theses to 
his church door at Wittenberg, starting 
the Eeformation in the West, both intent on 
denouncing what they considered the errors 
in their religions. His preaching attracted 
the attention of the Mahomedan governors, 
who reported that a fakir preaching doc- 
trines at variance with Hindu Vedas and 
Mahomedan Koran was gaining much in- 
fluence among the peasantry, which might 
prove serious to the Government. At that 
time Baber with his conquering Moghuls 
was entering the Punjab from the north. 
He was summoned to Delhi to appear 
before the Emperor, who after hearing him 
ordered him to be confined in prison. 
There he remained for seven months, until 
Baber captured Delhi and established the 
Moghul power. Baber interviewed him, 
when he defended his doctrine with firm- 
ness and eloquence. He was released, re- 
turned to his home, and continued his 
ministry. 

He extricated his disciples from the ac- 



24 THE SIKHS. 

cumulated errors of ages. Regarding them 
merely as disciples, he had no views of 
political advancement. As a preacher of 
peace and goodwill to man he told them to 
"fight with valour, but with no weapon 
except the Word of God/' an injunction to 
which his successors in the apostleship later 
on, when driven by persecution to defend 
themselves, added, "and with the sword of 
the Lord." His care was to prevent his 
people from contracting into a sect or into 
monastic distinctions, proving this by ex- 
cluding his son, a meditative ascetic, from 
the ministry after him — the son who justi- 
fied his fears by becoming the founder 
of a sect called " Oodasses, indifferent to 
the world," still existing in considerable 
numbers, proud of their origin, and using 
the 'Granth,' but not regarded as genuine 
Sikhs. 

Nanak's line of the Bedi clan through his 
younger son has been preserved to the 
present day. During these four hundred 
years they have been held in much venera- 




BABA SIR KHEM SINGH, BEDI, K.C.I.E., 

Lineal Descendant in the Fourteenth Generation from 
Baba Nanak, the Sikh Reformer. 



NANAK THE REFORMER. 25 

tion by all Sikhs, trusted and protected in 
the stormy times out of regard for their 
ancestor. An interesting personality at the 
recent Coronation celebration in London was 
Baba Sir Khem Singh, Bedi, K.C.I. E., one 
of the representatives sent from the Punjab, 
an old man of great influence and of proved 
loyalty, who has stood by the British 
Government from the day, as he expressed 
it, since the line of Eanjit Singh was ended 
— the lineal descendant in the fourteenth 
generation from the Sikh reformer, and the 
present head of the family. He spoke with 
decision for his co-religionists, of their fervid 
loyalty and of their readiness to prove it 
again and again in the future as they had 
done in the past, in defence of the King- 
Emperor and his kingdom. Kecently in 
the columns of a Punjab newspaper he has 
expressed his conviction that the political 
object which led the Sikhs to adopt a 
military life — viz., the establishment of a 
perfectly peaceful Government and the 
maintenance of a rule of justice and re- 



26 THE SIKHS. 

ligious toleration — has been completely real- 
ised under the benign reign of the British 
Government, and that the Sikhs, fully 
regarding that Government as a god-send, 
have accordingly placed themselves entirely 
at its service. 



CHAPTER III. 

SPREAD OF SIKH ISM. 

Nine Gurus, all Jats, followed Nanak in 
succession during a period of 170 years, the 
tenth and last being the martial Govind 
Singh, who, after creating the religious 
military commonwealth of warrior Singks, 
declared the dispensation ended. He insti- 
tuted the distinction between a Sikh and a 
Singh, for every Sikh is not a Singh. All 
profess the religion of JSTanak, but the Singh 
in addition has by baptism become a 
Govindhi Sikh, a Singh of the Guru, a 
lion of his race. 

Nanak's successor as Guru was a humble 
labouring man, who spread the religion by 
scrupulously adhering to his master's doctrine 
and commands. Before his death he, also 



28 THE SIKHS. 

deeming neither of his sons worthy of the 
office, nominated as successor one of his most 
earnest followers, a petty carrier by trade, 
who sent out many chosen disciples as 
missionaries to sow the seed of the Sikh 
faith. His daughter, to whom he was 
devotedly attached, married Ram Das, a 
Jat youth of good family of the Sodhi sept 
of the tribe, who became a zealous Sikh. 
The Guru at her request not only nominated 
him his successor, but also made the office 
hereditary in her offspring. Under Ram 
Das, who became the fourth Guru in 1574, 
the Sikhs greatly increased, and by their 
offerings he was enabled to live in state. He 
was of a quiet and peaceful disposition, given 
to literary pursuits, and devoted to the 
interests of the community. He laid the 
foundation of the city of Amritsar (Nectar 
Tank) upon a site granted to him by the 
tolerant Emperor Akbar, and excavated the 
holy tank, from which the town derives its 
name. In its midst on a small island he 
erected a temple, the future centre of Sikh 



SPREAD OF SIKH1SM. 29 

devotion. He died in 1581, after having 
appointed his son Arjun as his successor. 
The Guruship had now become hereditary. 

Arjun, the fifth Guru, established himself 
at Amritsar and completed the sacred tank 
and temple. A flourishing town grew up 
around, which became the rallying-point of 
the Sikhs, who had now rapidly increased in 
numbers and importance. Up to this time 
the Gurus led a quiet life, averse to outward 
show, but Arjun, by means of the wealth 
resulting from the offerings of increased 
numbers of disciples, lived as a prince, and 
kept a numerous band of adherents about 
him. He was now looked upon by them as 
a king as well as spiritual leader. With 
system and method he organised them into a 
community, and in order to raise their status, 
to separate them from the mass of Hindus, 
and to unite them by one common religious 
tie, he compiled a sacred code written in the 
mother tongue of the Jats. In this was 
incorporated the sayings and Psalms of 
Nanak, his own compositions, and those of 



30 THE SIKHS. 

the other Gurus, with selected literary pro- 
ductions of the religious reformers of the age 
whose memory was still fresh in the minds 
of the people. This supplanted the Hindu 
Vedas and Puranas which the unlettered 
people were unable to read. He named it 
the 'Granth/ the Holy Book, which to the 
present day is held in the greatest veneration 
by the Sikhs as binding on all true disciples. 
He also instituted daily public worship at 
the temple of the sacred tank at Amritsar, 
where crowds came daily to bathe, when the 
1 Granth ' was recited all day long with songs 
of praise to the accompaniment of stringed 
musical instruments. 

Up to this time the income of the Guru 
proceeded from voluntary offerings. He 
now reduced this to a regular religious tax 
levied by deputies appointed in the various 
districts, who presented the amount to the 
Guru in the annual General Assembly at 
Amritsar. The Sikhs were thus gradually 
accustomed to a domestic government of 
their own, and began to feel themselves 



SPREAD OF SIKHISM. 31 

an organised and strong party. The teach- 
ing of the new faith having met with much 
success and taken firm root among the Jat 
peasantry by means of this secular policy, 
the Guru's personal power and means greatly 
increased, thereby attracting public attention 
to him. Accordingly he excited the jealousy 
and enmity of the imperial Governor of 
Lahore, was charged with treason in espous- 
ing the cause of the Emperor's rebel son 
in one of the numerous family disputes 
among the Moghuls, and thrown into prison 
at Lahore, where he died in 1606, his death 
being ascribed to torture. His last message 
to his people was, "God is the strength 
of the strengthless ; He neither cometh nor 
goeth, — He is permanent ever." His death 
was looked upon as that of a martyr to 
the faith. It inflamed the religious pas- 
sions of the peaceful sect, converting 
them into a warlike community ready 
to defend their religion with the sword. 
This became the turning-point of their his- 
tory, and developed the struggle which 



32 THE SIKHS. 

changed the whole character of the reforma- 
tory movement. 

Har Govind succeeded his father as sixth 
Guru in 1606, and found himself at the head 
of a powerful and widespread religious order 
whose influence was felt far and near. Of a 
warlike spirit, he armed his followers and in- 
spired them with his own spirit of revenge 
and of hatred to their oppressors. At an 
audience with the Moghul Emperor he 
proved the treachery against his father 
and secured the execution of his powerful 
murderer. Political leadership now de- 
veloped in the young Guru, who assumed 
the character of a soldier, while his Sikhs 
became a brotherhood in arms as in faith. 
Like a fighting bishop of the middle ages, 
he led his warriors in person when impelled 
to play a part which was probably judged 
on both sides to be expedient, and took 
service in the Moghul army. After a time 
he fell under suspicion, and the Emperor 
imprisoned him in Gwalior Fort for twelve 
years. On being released at the accession 



SPREAD OF SIKHISM. 33 

of a new Emperor he re-entered the Moghul 
service, but later on, suspecting treachery, 
he fled to Amritsar, where the Sikh ecclesi- 
astical headquarters had remained under 
the system established by his father. 

On three occasions after desperate fighting 
he defeated the royal troops sent against 
him. He was now looked upon as a hero 
and a master of the art of war, and the 
Sikhs were always ready to rally round his 
banner ; but being satisfied with his success 
*so far, and knowing the strength and re- 
sources of the Government, he retired to 
the sub - Himalayan hills to preserve his 
power and recruit his followers. The sect 
had now risen to the dignity of persecution, 
and, despite repressive measures, crowds of 
Jat peasantry joined it. 

Har Govind quite changed the character 
of the peaceful Nanak's disciples, who now 
laid aside their rosaries and buckled on the 
sword in defence of their faith. His popu- 
larity increased with the warlike Jats, who, 
oppressed in their villages, joined him in 



34 THE SIKHS. 

large numbers. The camp became their 
home and the plunder of the Mahomedans 
their lawful prey. He died in 1638, after 
nominating as his successor his grandson, 
son of his eldest deceased son. The fight- 
ing spirit of the Sikhs having been roused 
and their quality proved, made them a 
power to be courted. Under their Guru 
they joined a son of the Emperor in re- 
bellion, who was friendly to them, but 
eventually had to flee to their retreats. 
On the death of their leader his young son, 
six years of age, succeeded him as eighth 
Guru ; but a contest now arose among the 
Sikhs regarding the succession, which, curi- 
ously enough, was referred to the arbitration 
of the Moghul Emperor, who summoned the 
boy to Delhi, where he died. 

Tegh Bahadur, the younger son of the 
martial Har Govind, was now selected as 
ninth Guru. His mother, when the succes- 
sion went some years before to Har Govind's 
grandson, remonstrated at the decision ; but 
the dying Guru gave his arms to her to keep 



SPREAD OF SIKHISM. 35 

for her son Tegli Bahadur, who, he said, 
would yet become Guru. Tegh Bahadur 
demurred at first to accept the office, saying 
that he would rather be Degh Bahadur 
(Lord of the Cooking-Pot—" Hospitality") 
than Tegh Bahadur (Lord of the Sword), 
meaning that he preferred to support 
the poor and feed the hungry. The 
assembled Sikhs hailed this as a most 
auspicious offer of unbounded hospitality, 
and acted up to their maxim of "Jiska 
degh us ka tegh" (My sword is at the 
service of him who feeds me) by flocking 
in great numbers to his banner. He 
built a fort near the Sutlej, there estab- 
lished his ecclesiastical and military head- 
quarters, and continued the fitful life of 
struggle with the hated Mahomedans. He 
was captured and led to Delhi in 1675, 
where, on refusing to abjure his religion, 
he was beheaded by order of the Emperor. 
Before leaving he sent for his young and 
only son Govind, then fifteen years of age, 
and girding on him the sword of his father 



36 THE SIKHS. 

Har Govind, who had first used it in defence 
of the faith, hailed him as the future Guru 
of the Sikhs, as he said he knew he was 
going to his death, and exhorted him to 
recover his dead body. This was done by 
some daring men of low caste, who were 
afterwards, as a reward for their courage, 
enrolled by Govind as "Singhs" under the 
name of Muzhabi Sikhs, a charter which 
gave them higher status as brave fighting 
men. Several thousands of this class are 
in the Indian army at the present day. 

The dragon's teeth thus sown at Delhi 
in the blood of the martyred Guru, Tegh 
Bahadur, soon brought to harvest an abun- 
dant crop. 



CHAPTEE IV. 

GURU GOVIND SINGH, FOUNDER OF THE KHALSA, 
THE SIKH COMMONWEALTH. 

Young Govind, who became the tenth Guru 
on the death of his father, Tegh Bahadur, 
in 1675, being surrounded by enemies, 
retired to the Himalayas at the head- 
waters of the Jumna, and there lived for 
twenty years, devoting himself to study 
and the chase. At the age of thirty-five 
he issued from his retreat, having matured 
his plans for reforming the Sikhs and 
making them a separate people. The 
violent death of his father and the deep 
sense of the wrongs of his persecuted race 
resolved him to make them prominent as 
a nation. He summoned the dispersed 
Sikhs from all parts to join him : crowds 



38 THE SIKHS. 

obeyed. The time suited him, the bigot 
Emperor Aurangzeb having commenced a 
crusade against Hindu and Sikh alike. 
He called upon his disciples by all that 
was dear to them, in defence of their faith 
and in the name of their martyred Guru 
to exchange their rosaries and ploughs for 
swords : now was the time to raise their 
fallen race and to overthrow the hated 
Mahomedans, who were bent on subverting 
their religion. There could be no religious 
freedom while the Moslem ruled the land. 

He then announced that converts to the 
Sikh faith would be admitted from all tribes, 
and caste abolished. In order to effect this 
he revived in the form of baptism an old 
initiatory ceremony called the pahal, which 
had ceased to be observed during the per- 
secutions, administering it first to five of 
his most resolute disciples who had given 
marked proof of devotion. After bathing 
and putting on clean garments they were 
seated side by side, each with his sword 
girded on. With a two-edged dagger the 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 39 

Guru stirred a mixture of sugar-and-water 
in an iron dish, reciting over it verses in 
praise of God. 1 Some of this they drank, 
part was poured on their heads, and the 
rest sprinkled on their faces. Then patting 
them with his hand, he commanded them 
to say, "The Khalsa of the Vah Guru, 
victory to the Vah Guru." They were then 
hailed as "Singhs" or lions of their race, 
and declared to be the Khalsa — the select, 
the purified, God's own — the Sikh brother- 
hood or commonwealth, which he foretold 
would grow up as a forest of trees firmly 
rooted, multiplying their leaves, become a 
nation and rule the land. Govind then 
took the pahal from their hands in the 
same manner and exclaimed, " The Khalsa 
arose from the Guru and the Guru from 
the Khalsa. They are the mutual pro- 
tectors of each other." All the rest of the 

1 The tradition is that as the water was being poured into 
the iron dish, Govind's wife happened to pass by carrying five 
kinds of sugared sweetmeats. She was hailed by him as aus- 
picious. He took some sugar from her hands and mixed it in 
the baptismal water. 



40 THE SIKHS. 

disciples present were similarly baptised and 
declared Singhs. The Guru then announced 
that wherever five Sikhs should be as- 
sembled together, it should be considered 
as if the Guru was himself present ; that 
those who wished to see the Guru would 
see him in the Khalsa. From this time 
he changed his name to Govind Singh, 
and he added " Singh" to his baptised 
followers' names, an affix which up till 
then was exclusively assumed by the Raj- 
puts, the first military class of the Hindus, 
who alone were entitled to carry arms. 

This baptismal rite is observed to this 
day — administered when five or more Sikhs 
are present, and not before the attainment 
of years of discretion. 

The members of the Khalsa were required 
to carry arms and to salute one another with 
"The Khalsa is of the Lord Guru, victory 
attend the Lord ! " as an acknowledgment 
of obligation to the brotherhood. In order 
to mark them as a select body who should 
be known by outward signs, it was declared 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 41 

that every true Sikh must always have five 
things with him, their names all commencing 
with the letter k — namely, kes (long hair of 
the head : the Sikh must never cut his hair 
or beard) ; kangi (comb), to secure the hair 
tied up in a knot on the top of the head ; 
kachh (breeches reaching to the knee), kard 
(knife), and kirpan (sword). Rules of con- 
duct were also enjoined by which they were 
to be known to all the world. All was 
designed to give the Sikhs a distinct 
national character in opposition to the 
ways of other people, and to keep alive a 
sense of duty and profession of faith. 
Hindus and Mahomedans are much given 
to shaving heads and beards : among the 
Scythians and ancient Hindus shaving the 
head was an infamous punishment. "Come 
out from among them, and be ye separate ; 
take the pahal of the Khalsa," was Govind's 
call to the Sikhs. "I bow with love and 
devotion to the Holy Sword/' 1 was his 

1 Herodotus refers to the worship of the Sword which 
prevailed among the Scythian Getae. 



42 THE SIKHS. 

address to the sword, by which religious 
liberty was to be won ; and his prayer 
enjoined to every Singh, " Grant, God, 
that I may never hesitate to perform good 
and meritorious deeds, nor flee from my 
enemy in fear when I go to fight with 
him with the determination and certainty 
of victory. When the period of life may 
draw to its close on the field of battle, 
may I die like a hero. Let us prove our 
loyalty to our sovereign and master, and 
leave our life and death to God." His 
definition of the true Sikh was he who 
never fears though often overcome. Per- 
sonal courage in the fight for the cause 
was to be the highest of virtues, cowardice 
the basest of crimes. Neither loss of life 
nor loss of property in maintaining their 
cause was to be lamented. 

Govind's next move was to issue orders 
that every Sikh house inhabited by four 
adult males should contribute two for 
service under him. In a short time 80,000 
men were gathered round him. In ad- 




GOVIND SINGH'S ARMED DISCIPLES. 
The Early Soldiers of the Khalsa. 



GURU G0V1ND SINGH. 43 

dressing them he commenced by praising 
God as the Omnipotent, Almighty, Invinc- 
ible, and Merciful, who must be worshipped 
in truthfulness and sincerity, and that no 
material resemblance must degrade Him. 
He could only be beheld by the eye of 
faith in the general body of the Khalsa. 
All Sikhs must be united in one chain of 
brotherhood. "Ye Sikhs are all brothers, 
all equal ; there must be no caste among 
you, you must all be equal, no man greater 
than the other. All must eat together and 
drink from the same cup. Caste must be 
forgotten, idols destroyed, the Brahmani- 
cal thread broken, the graves of saints 
abandoned, Korans and Purans torn to 
pieces." The only way to salvation w^as 
through the pahal [lit. gate] of the true 
Guru. 

He appealed to the eternal human in- 
stinct of equality, liberty, and brotherhood, 
broke for ever with caste prejudices, and 
received into the Khalsa people of all 
classes who had hitherto been debarred 



44 THE SIKHS. 

from bearing arms. The Singhs of the 
Khalsa felt themselves at once elevated to 
rank and equality with the proud martial 
Rajputs. Personal pride and vigour were 
infused into them, and Sikhism knitted 
them together in the brotherhood of the 
Sword. Each became great in his own 
eyes, as forming one of the select Khalsa 
whom the Guru regarded as his own. The 
contagious momentum of enthusiasm created 
by Govind Singh's irresistible appeal brought 
thousands of the lower orders to receive 
the pahal and enter the Khalsa. The pride 
and prejudices of the Brahmans and Rajputs 
among his followers were offended by this 
levelling up of caste to such a degree that 
many of them left him, but he knew that 
his great strength lay among the Jat 
peasantry, who welcomed the brotherhood. 
The disciples who did not acknowledge these 
innovations of Govind simply called them- 
selves Sikhs, without adding to their names 
the title of " Singh." 

He now disciplined his followers to some 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 45 

extent, exercised them in the use of arms, 
organised then into troops and bands, and 
built forts along the skirt of the hills be- 
tween the Jumna and the Sutlej where 
their retreats lay. At the end of the 
century he felt his power equal to the 
hazard of a rebellion against the Imperial 
Government. He routed the hill rajas who 
opposed him, and defeated the Moghul 
troops sent to aid them, but the Emperor, 
roused to greater action, sent a powerful 
army, which eventually scattered the Sikhs 
for a time. His mother with his two 
youngest sons, mere boys, escaped to Sir- 
hind, where they fell into the hands of the 
Mahomedan governor. One day as they 
were sitting in his durbar he kindly said 
to them, "Boys, what would you do if 
I gave you your liberty ? " The boys 
answered, "We would collect our Sikhs, 
fight with you, and put you to death." 
The Governor said, "If you were defeated 
in the fight, what would you do then ? " 
to which they replied, "We would collect 



46 THE SIKHS. 

our army again, and either kill you or be 
killed." The Governor, enraged at this 
spirited answer, ordered them to be taken 
away. They were buried alive under a 
wall, and Govind's mother died of grief. 

The Guru himself was hard pressed by 
the Moghul troops, and held a post with 
a small devoted band of his men against 
overwhelming numbers, indignantly refusing 
to surrender and embrace the Mahomedan 
faith. His two surviving sons and their 
mother were killed by his side. Escaping 
with five followers, he made his way to the 
jungles and desert south of the Sutlej. He 
met his adversities with undaunted resolu- 
tion ; submitted to the will of God, and 
rallied his Sikhs round him again, saying, 
"The affairs of this sorrowful world are 
transitory. God makes a thing and un- 
makes a thing ; who are we to grumble 
since the rein is in His hand ? Eely then 
firmly on His will, for He is the Almighty ; 
what are we poor mortals before Him ? " 
His disciples, seeing their Guru so firm 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 47 

and resolute, recommenced fighting with 
the enemies of their faith, and defeated 
the imperial troops sent to disperse them, 
when great numbers fell on both sides. 
They were now left there undisturbed for 
some time, during which thousands of the 
Jat peasantry joined the Khalsa. 

Later on Govind Singh returned to his 
old retreat near the Sutlej, passing by 
Sirhind, the scene of the murder of his 
two little sons. His Sikhs implored him 
for orders to burn the town. He said that 
the death of his sons would not be avenged 
by the destruction of the town, which had 
done no harm, but that for the future every 
true Sikh who passed that way should pull 
down two bricks and throw them into the 
river in detestation of the crime committed 
on innocent children. This act has been 
observed by the faithful Govindi Sikhs 
through the many years ; but little re- 
mains now, as the railway contractor 
some years ago appeared on the scene 
and carried away the mass of old Sirhind 



48 THE SIKHS. 

as ballast on which to lay the iron track 
— the iron made sacred by the martial 
Guru, and which every true Singh was 
commanded to wear always in some shape, 
either as a sword, a small hatchet, or as 
a bangle. The Sikh now in the railway 
carriage has the satisfaction of crushing 
under the wheels the ruins of the cursed 
city of Sirhind. Towards the close of the 
reign of his enemy Aurangzeb, Govind 
Singh remained in peace. He felt it a 
duty to save all that could be saved of 
the Sikhs for the time, to recuperate the 
race, and enable them to emerge more 
powerful after so much tribulation, as he 
no doubt saw that the Emperor's bigoted 
intolerance towards Hindus had weakened 
the Moghul power. In the meantime he 
was gaining many disciples, and had given 
them confidence in fighting. In a letter 
to the Emperor he wrote, " Beware ! I will 
teach the sparrows to strike the eagle to 
the ground/' an allusion to his inspiring 
the peasantry with valour and ambition. 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 49 

Aurangzeb while in the Deccan felt nerv- 
ous about the Khalsa, and summoned Govind 
Singh to his Court. He replied in a letter, 
setting forth the calamities and persecution 
to which he had been subjected by the 
Imperial Government. He had been ren- 
dered childless and homeless ; he had lost 
all his family. The day of reckoning would 
at last come when the oppressor would have 
to account before the Creator for the wrongs 
done by him ; that for himself he despised 
death and was weary of life ; that he feared 
no one and was willing to die, but that if 
he was killed his death would be avenged. 
The Emperor did not resent this letter, but 
again desired the Guru to come to him, in 
which case he would be kindly received. 
He accordingly set out in 1707 to visit 
Aurangzeb, but on his way he heard of 
the Emperor's death. The new Emperor, 
Bahadur Shah, received Govind Singh with 
distinction, and as he had to contend with 
the younger brother for the crown, in- 
vited his aid and gave him a command 



50 THE SIKHS. 

of 5000 horse in his army in the Deccan. 
While there he was mortally wounded by 
a Pathan assassin. He left no successor ; 
he was the last lineal descendant of the 
Gurus. He said the appointed ten Gurus 
of the Sikhs had done their mission, the 
dispensation was ended, and that he in- 
trusted his beloved Khalsa to the care of 
God, "the never-dying.' 7 "The 'Grants 
shall support you in all troubles in this 
world and be a true guide to the here- 
after. The Gurus shall dwell in the society 
of the Khalsa, and wherever there shall 
be five Sikhs gathered together there 
the true Guru shall be present also." 
They must have "firm belief in one God, 
and look to the 'Granth ? as His inspired 
law." Feeling faint, he said to his disciples, 
"Bathe me, put on me new clothes, and 
arm me with all my weapons. When my 
breath departs do not take off these clothes, 
but burn me with them and with all my 
weapons." 1 He was placed on the funeral 

1 The ancient Scythian custom. 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 51 

pyre dressed and armed, and expired in 
the performance of his devotions, his last 
words being, "0 Holy God, Thy mercy is 
such that though I have not perceived Thee 
by touch of hand, yet have I fully recog- 
nised Thee/' He died in 1708 at Nader, 
on the banks of the Godavari river, in the 
forty-eighth year of his age, having reigned 
as Guru for nearly thirty-three years. 

The rule of the Gurus had now lasted for 
two hundred years, and the reformed religion 
established by them had taken firm root 
among the Jats. The dry bones of an 
oppressed peasantry were stirred into life, 
and the institution of the Sikh baptismal 
rite at the hands of a few disciples any- 
where — in a place of worship, in the house, 
or by the roadside — brought about the 
more full and widespread development of 
the new faith. In Govind were united the 
qualities of religious leader, king, warrior, 
and lawgiver. He was the right man for 
the needs of the Sikhs of his day. He 
devoted them to steel, and hence the wor- 



52 THE SIKHS. 

ship of the Sword. He imbued them with 
a warlike spirit, and made them a people 
separated from their Indian countrymen in 
political constitution and ambition as well 
as in religious tenets, leading them to 
reject caste and to abandon the institutes 
of Hinduism for a fraternity of arms and 
military daring. Faced by the intolerance 
and persecution of the Moghul Govern- 
ment, the time had gone for the preserva- 
tion or diffusion of the Sikh faith in Nanak's 
spirit of meekness and humility. Nanak 
laid the broad foundations of religious re- 
form, on which Govind built his militant 
doctrine to suit the changed times. He 
wished to infuse his own spirit into Nanak's 
'Granth/ as he said it only instilled into 
the minds of the Sikhs a spirit of meekness 
and humility ; but the guardians of the book 
signed by Arjun the compiler refused to let 
this be done, so Govind decided to make an 
additional book for his followers which should 
rouse their military valour and inflame them 
to deeds of courage. He completed it in 



GURU GOVIND SINGH. 53 

1696, calling it the 'Granth of the tenth 
King/ or reign, as the rule of the Gurus 
is termed — the 'Granth of the Govindi 
Sikhs/ as distinguished from the 'Adi 
Granth/ the first book. In it he treats of 
the knowledge of God and the way to 
salvation ; urges the necessity of leading 
an active and useful life, giving lofty ideas 
of social freedom and rousing his disciples 
to deeds of valour, military glory, and 
national ascendancy. His 'Book of Guid- 
ance' contains the principles by which the 
Singhs were to adhere to the commands of 
the Guru in all affairs of life and conduct, 
and to preserve their separation from all 
other sects. He instituted the "Guru Mata," 
or National Council, to which all Sikhs were 
admitted and given the opportunity to ex- 
press their opinions on political matters. 
This with the ' Granth ' for guidance formed 
the Sikh constitution. 

By converting a horde of undisciplined 
peasants into enthusiastic soldiers animated 
with religious fervour, by inuring them to 



54 THE SIKHS. 

warfare, and by his new ordinances mould- 
ing them into the distinct community of 
the Khalsa, — the Commonwealth bonded to- 
gether to fight until they triumphed, — 
Govind Singh contributed much to the 
weakening of the Mahomedan power at a 
time when the Emperor Aurangzeb, by his 
bigotry towards Hindus, was paving the 
way for the disintegration of his Empire. 
Under his strong hand the Sikhs rose by 
a feeling of nationality among a people who 
had none. He well and truly laid the 
corner-stone of that nation which Kanjit 
Singh a hundred years later, by the force 
of the religious bond of the Khalsa, raised 
in the Punjab on the ruins of the Moghul 
Empire, emancipating the land of his an- 
cestors from thraldom and persecution. 



CHAPTER V. 

STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA FOR POSSESSION 
OF THE PUNJAB. 

After Govind's death the Khalsa was left 
without any real head. Such a body with 
its turbulent elements could not remain 
quiet, and unfortunately some of them 
came under the evil influence of a Hindu 
ascetic, a late Sikh convert and friend of 
the deceased Guru, who posed as his suc- 
cessor, intrusted by him with the command 
to avenge his martyred father's blood and 
that of his young innocent sons. This false 
apostle appealed to their feelings of revenge, 
excited at the moment by the circumstances 
of Govind's death, and led them in a crus- 
ade against the hated Mahomedans when 
the spirit of the ruthless Goth in them 



56 THE SIKHS. 

flashed out fiercely. They captured Sir- 
hind, the scene of the murder of the Guru's 
sons, massacred the inhabitants, and then 
ravaged the country up to Lahore, sparing 
only those who became Sikhs. The new 
Emperor, Bahadur Shah, took the field in 
person against them with a powerful army, 
called on all Mahomedans to rise in defence 
of their religion, and gave orders merci- 
lessly to crush the revolt by slaying every 
Sikh to be found. The death of the Em- 
peror and the usual conflict for the succes- 
sion among the sons prolonged the anarchy 
and confusion in the Punjab for six years, 
during which Mahomedan and Sikh fought 
with ferocity. At last the Akalis among 
the Sikhs, a body of fanatical and uncom- 
promising followers of Govind, established 
by him in the name of his youngest sons, 
turned against their fiendish leader, alien- 
ated by his excesses and attempts to sub- 
vert the tenets and commands of their great 
Guru to suit his Hindu proclivities. His 
death at the hands of the Moghuls in 1715 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 57 

ended the struggle. He was an undaunted 
leader : that is all that can be said in his 
favour. His memory is not revered by the 
Sikhs, who looked on him latterly as a 
heretic. As swords are proved when they 
bend, so in this case the Sikhs, after having 
swerved for a time from the path marked 
out for them by Govind, righted themselves 
and won in the end. 

They now scattered, taking refuge in the 
hills and jungles, where for about twenty 
years they remained unorganised, only held 
together by a common faith and cause, 
patiently waiting for the opportunity, which 
came in 1738, when Nadir Shah, the Persian, 
at the head of his wild host of red-capped 
warriors, swept through the Punjab to the 
capture of Delhi. The Sikhs then issued 
from their retreats and, true to their race 
traditions, attacked the invaders. On the 
return march of the conquerors laden with 
the spoils of the Moghul capital, they fell 
on the rear of the army and secured much 
plunder, doubly acceptable to them as 



58 THE SIKHS. 

being that of accursed Delhi, the scene 
of the martyrdom of one of their Gurus. 
" Whence/ 7 demanded the imperious Nadir 
Shah, "come those long-haired barbarians 
who dare to molest me ? Destroy them and 
their homes." " Their homes are the saddles 
on their horses' backs/' was the reply. 

The year 1738 saw the beginning of a 
new series of Mahomedan invasions from 
the north. Other invaders followed Nadir 
up to the close of the century, the Afghans 
being the last, as seven hundred years be- 
fore they had been the first under Mahmud 
of Ghuzni, who introduced his Islamic faith 
into India. Now commenced the long and 
fierce contest which was to decide whether 
the Mahomedan or the Sikh was to rule 
the Punjab. Much confusion reigned there 
after the invasion of Nadir. A mortal 
wound had been inflicted on the Moghul 
Empire, which was now tottering to its 
fall. The vigilant Sikhs gathered from all 
quarters, and again resorted to Amritsar, 
the cradle of their faith. They formed 




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STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 59 

themselves into armed associations and 
moved about the country, laying towns 
and villages under contribution. A pro- 
clamation was issued by the Lahore Vice- 
roy ordering a general massacre of the 
long-haired Singhs wherever found. They 
were hunted like wild beasts, a price being 
placed on their heads ; thousands were put 
to death, refusing pardon on condition of 
renouncing their faith and cutting their 
hair. They were looked on as martyrs to 
the cause, but, despite all, the Khalsa grew 
and increased in boldness. Bands of Sikh 
horsemen were to be seen at dawn riding 
at full gallop towards Amritsar, running 
the gantlet of the Mahomedan troops. The 
message would be sent round the distant 
villages, "Who will ride to-night?" — the 
watchword for a dash to be made to bathe 
in the sacred tank. It is said that no in- 
stance was known of a Sikh then captured 
consenting to abjure his religion. Death 
was the martyr's crown on such occasions. 
Henceforth the character of the Sikh resist- 



60 THE SIKHS. 

ance completely changed. To defend them- 
selves against the Mahomedan invaders they 
formed organised confederacies of fighting 
men, each under one head chief. The ne- 
cessity of fighting, how to resist, how to 
practise plunder, was the one law recog- 
nised. 

In 1748 Ahmad Shah, the Afghan king, 
aspired to found an Indian Empire, invaded 
the Punjab, and crossed the Sutlej after 
capturing Lahore. He was repulsed by the 
Moghuls and recrossed the Indus. He made 
two other unsuccessful attempts, and finally 
in 1756 occupied Delhi, which then suffered 
a repetition of the former pillage and mas- 
sacre by the Persians eighteen years before. 
The Punjab was ceded to the conqueror as 
the price of peace. This completed the 
ruin of the Moghul power, which was now 
reduced to the condition of a province and 
left a prey to the Mahrattas, who were 
then overrunning Hindostan. Ahmad Shah 
returned to Kabul, leaving his son Tymur 
at Lahore as Viceroy of the Punjab. The 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 61 

confusion and tumult arising from these 
repeated invasions enabled the Sikh associa- 
tions to acquire fresh strength by preying 
on both Moghul and Afghan. No other 
course was now left to them but to conquer 
or be conquered. It was war to the knife 
between them and their new and more 
robust masters, the Afghans. No quarter 
was given or asked. Time after time was 
Amritsar captured, but after each defeat 
Sikh enthusiasm rose with unabated vigour. 
When their temple was razed to the ground 
and the sacred tank filled up with pollution 
by the blood and entrails of slaughtered 
cows, they were roused to such a degree 
that they gathered in thousands, ravaged 
the country round Lahore, defeated the 
Afghan troops there, and forced the Vice- 
roy to retreat. 

In 1758 the triumphant Sikhs occupied 
the capital under the leadership of one 
Jussa Singh, a carpenter, who declared 
the Khalsa a state. The Moghuls now 
attempted to recover their lost province, 



62 THE SIKHS. 

and invited the Mahrattas to aid them 
in this. They promptly responded with a 
large force, drove out the Afghans, and 
occupied the country up to the Indus. 
All order had now vanished in the Punjab, 
where Afghans, Moghuls, Mahrattas, and 
Sikhs were contending for power. The 
successes of the Mahrattas and Sikhs 
brought back Ahmad Shah with a num- 
erous army. He drove out the Mahrattas, 
and following them up, disastrously de- 
feated them at Panipat, near Delhi, in 
1761 in one of the most sanguinary 
battles ever fought in India. He re- 
turned to Kabul the same year, leaving 
a governor shut up in Lahore, the Sikhs 
having continued active in his rear, swarm- 
ing round Amritsar and the capital. They 
now grew more daring, their chiefs ap- 
propriating lands and building forts in 
different parts of the country, which added 
greatly to their power and resources. 
Again they restored Amritsar, and assem- 
bling there in great force proceeded to 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 63 

attack Sirhincl and other places held by 
the Afghans. 

In 1762 Ahmad Shah reappeared, and 
by rapid marches reached Sirhind, where 
he routed with great slaughter the Sikh 
force of 50,000 men besieging that city ; 
then returning by Amritsar, utterly de- 
stroyed it. The Sikhs reeled at the blow 
struck at them, but were strong and con- 
fident enough to stand it. Extraordinary 
vitality was shown by them at this crisis. 
The prime necessity was to preserve their 
cause by renewed unremitting effort, and 
to regain what had been lost. They soon 
rallied, and once more emerged from the 
wreckage, beginning life again at Amritsar, 
and restoring their temple and sacred tank. 
They then showed what a powerful force 
character is in the formation of a nation 
— character moulded by religious persecu- 
tion and the unflinching courage of the 
true Sikh, instilled by Govind, "who never 
fears though oft overcome/' which en- 
gendered vitality under all conditions, the 



64 THE SIKHS. 

more adverse the better, with a deter- 
mination to struggle for the triumph of 
the Khalsa at all costs. 

Thirsting for revenge, they convened a 
General Assembly and Council, formed a 
still more compact and formidable con- 
federation, and decided on their plan of 
campaign. Having assembled a force of 
40,000 men, they captured the Pathan 
strongholds in their neighbourhood, marched 
to Sirhind, defeated the Afghan troops 
there, and destroyed that accursed city. 
They then partitioned out among them- 
selves the country between the Sutlej and 
the Jumna. This brought back Ahmad 
Shah with his army ; but they retired 
before him, as they knew they were no 
match in the open for the better armed 
Afghans with their artillery. 

Sirhind being devastated by Pathan and 
Sikh alike, the Durrani king now adopted 
the policy of acknowledging the diplomatic 
Sikh chief of Patiala as his governor of 
that province. Disturbances having broken 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 65 

out in Kabul, he, after leaving garrisons 
in Lahore and Ehotas on the Jhelum, 
hurriedly departed, the Sikhs as usual 
harassing his rear. They then captured 
Lahore, placed three of their chiefs in 
it as joint governors, and seized all the 
country between the Sutlej and the 
Jhelum, exacting fierce retribution from 
the Mahomedans. A General Assembly 
was now held at Amritsar, and by a 
decree the Khalsa was proclaimed the 
dominant Power in the Punjab and the 
Sikh religion supreme. This assumption 
of sovereignty was marked by striking a 
coin with the inscription, " Guru Govind 
received from Nanak degh, tegh, and futteh 
—hospitality, valour, and victory." They 
had now become masters of the plains 
from the Jhelum to the Jumna. 

In 1767 Ahmad Shah made a final 
attempt to crush the Sikhs (his eighth 
invasion), and marching down at the head 
of his invincible army, engaged them on 
the banks of the Sutlej and forced them 



66 THE SIKHS. 

to fall back on their retreats. Failing 
health now induced him to adopt a policy 
of conciliation, so he invested the Patiala 
chief as independent ruler of Sirhind, with 
the title of Raja of Rajas, with colours 
and drum, the insignia of royalty, and 
the right to strike coins ; while he con- 
firmed a Sikh chief, who had been one 
of the joint governors of Lahore, in his 
possessions in the neighbourhood of that 
capital, in the vain hope of securing his 
aid for the Afghan governor he left there. 
He gave the inch, and the Sikhs soon 
took the ell : as the powerful Ahmad 
Shah had commenced to cede, they saw 
he felt his hold of the Punjab was reced- 
ing. They cut off the baggage train of 
his army on its retirement north, and no 
sooner had he crossed the Indus than 
they captured Lahore and Rhotas. 

Not even the semblance of Afghan 
dominion now remained in the country 
between the Indus and the Jumna. The 
Sikh chiefs spread themselves over it and 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 67 

occupied it as a permanent inheritance, 
every one of them according to his 
strength seizing what fell in his way 
and making himself independent. After 
a quarter of a century of fierce contest 
the Sikhs were now relieved from religious 
persecution. They had survived many a 
stricken field. Their dogged faith in 
themselves and in Govind's prophecy that 
they would become a nation was brought 
out strongly in the long years of adversity 
which determined and developed the char- 
acter of their resistance. The tide had 
turned at last, and taken at the flood it 
carried them on to the success which they 
never doubted would be theirs. They 
were left undisturbed by their mortal foes 
the Afghans for the next thirty years, 
during which time they built up a strong 
body of clan confederacies, with Amritsar 
as their central headquarters. 

The redoubtable Ahmad Shah of Kabul 
died in 1773 and was succeeded by his son 
Tymur, who, deeming it beyond his power 



68 THE SIKHS. 

to force his way to Lahore, deterred by the 
wild daring Sikh leaders who had risen, 
turned his attention to the Lower Punjab, 
and sent an army of Durranis and Kazal- 
bashes to expel the Sikhs from Multan, 
which they had seized. After repeated 
attacks he drove them out with severe loss. 
Shah Zaman, who became King of Kabul 
in 1793, determined to recover Lahore. 
After several false starts and some fighting 
north of the Jhelum he occupied it in 1797, 
and again in 1798, without opposition; but 
each time was compelled to return hurriedly 
to Afghanistan to quell rebellion there. The 
Sikhs, though powerful for guerilla fighting, 
were not the equal of the Afghans in train- 
ing, armament, and disciplined warfare, and 
retired on the Shah's approach, only to re- 
turn as he departed and attack and cut off 
the Afghan posts left behind. During his 
last invasion he was conciliatory, and his 
army committed no outrages. Most of the 
Sikh Sardars accordingly came in and paid 
homage to him as an honoured guest, — 



STRUGGLES OF THE KHALSA. 69 

among them Ranjit Singh, the young chief 
of a powerful clan, who, by his military 
ability, address, and tact, attracted the 
Shah's attention. When his army was re- 
turning to Kabul in 1798, for the time 
unmolested, twelve of his guns stuck in the 
bed of the Jhelum river. He sent an order 
to Ranjit Singh to recover them for him, 
in which case he would consider his wish 
to be appointed Governor of Lahore. He 
recovered eight, sent them to Kabul, and 
as a reward received what he aspired to, 
a royal investiture as Governor of the capital 
of the Punjab. The joint Sikh Governors 
belonging to other clans having reoccupied 
Lahore on the departure of the Shah, Ranjit 
Singh in 1799, by combined diplomacy and 
force, ousted them, and established himself 
there with his own clan and allies. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES EVOLUTION OF THE 

SIKH SARDARS. 

On the dispersal of the Sikhs a few years 
after Govind's death they were left without 
a head to direct them in war. Following 
on the Persian invasion in 1738, when they 
again took the field, they organised them- 
selves in bands. Every village produced a 
sardar or chief with his followers, the boldest 
and most successful among whom attracted 
to his banner free-lances from elsewhere to 
join his party, which gradually grew into a 
larger one, with greater possessions, by means 
of raids and plunder under the old simple 
plan of "let him take who has the power, 
let him keep who can." 

Experience in contending with the in- 




A SIKH SARDAR. 



THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES. 71 

vaders taught them the necessity of some 
measure of union, so these various parties 
were later on leagued together in twelve 
confederacies or misls, signifying similitude, 
to imply equality whatever their strength, 
each being under a chief sardar. Most of 
these misls were called after the villages of 
their founders, a few being given personal 
and other names connected with their origin. 
Every sardar was personally known by the 
name of his native village. None were ad- 
mitted as members of these misls, which 
constituted the Khalsa or governing body, 
unless active horsemen and proficient in 
arms. After a successful expedition the 
boldest would ride far and wide to mark 
the villages they annexed by throwing into 
them some article to prove the identity of 
the captor. It was the aim of the daring 
Jat youths to qualify for admission to a 
misl, and considered by them a religious 
honour to receive the pahal of the Singhs 
at the hands of a renowned leader. The 
path to eminence was then open to them. 



72 THE SIKHS. 

These sardars did not exercise absolute 
supremacy over their mists, the constitu- 
tion of which was very democratic and 
the authority of the chiefs limited. The 
fighting men exacted a share in the land 
seized proportionate to the service they 
had rendered, and merely looked upon the 
chiefs as leaders in war and arbiters in 
peace. Many of these chiefs were men of 
humble birth, — ploughmen, shepherds, or 
artisans, — all bold stirring men who won 
their way to be heads of bands of maraud- 
ing horsemen. They administered accord- 
ing to the law laid down in the 'Granth/ 
and levied tribute or protection - monejr 
from the subdued tracts. All booty taken 
was divided equally among the chiefs, who 
in turn subdivided it among their men, 
who were free to abandon the profession 
of arms or to transfer their military alleg- 
iance from one chief to another, — ever 
ready to welcome them, — a system of 
volunteering which was calculated to secure 
for them good treatment from their chiefs. 



THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES. 73 

The sardars agreed by common consent 
that some one from among themselves should 
from time to time be appointed by the 
popular voice of the Khalsa to the head of 
Church and State in the National Council 
at Amritsar, and to be guided by him in all 
matters requiring united action, thus form- 
ing a federal union. The Akalis (Immortals), 
already referred to, the stern class of zealots 
which originated as a special body under 
Guru Govind Singh, formed a National league 
at Amritsar to maintain the primitive doc- 
trines and reformed worship of the Sikh 
Church and to watch over the general con- 
duct of the Khalsa. They exercised a fierce 
scrutiny as censors in upholding strict com- 
pliance with the militant creed of the 
Singhs, constituted themselves defenders of 
the faith against all innovations, took a 
prominent part in the Councils, in the 
planning and arranging of expeditions for 
averting national danger, and in educating 
the people in the doctrines of the Sikh 
religion. 



74 THE SIKHS. 

At these Councils business was preceded 
by the distribution of consecrated bread 
equally to all present, the "love feast" of 
the brotherhood, in commemoration of the 
injunction of JSTanak, all bowing the head 
before the 'Granth,' the Akalis exclaiming, 
" The Khalsa is of the Lord ; victory is of 
the Lord." When the link of a common 
enemy was removed the misls were often at 
war among themselves, mutually plundering 
and disposing of rivals ; but notwithstanding 
the multiplicity of chiefs and their inde- 
pendence, they well understood that union 
was strength, and that the paramount duty 
of one and all was to act unitedly irf de- 
fence of religion and country, being bound 
by the law laid down in their holy Scrip- 
tures to aid one another in the common 
cause. 

All the confederacies had their centres 
about Lahore, Amritsar, and Sirhind, in the 
fertile and most populated districts. From 
there they extended their conquests in every 
direction, the outlying possessions being 




AN AKALI SIKH. 



THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES. 75 

held by minor chiefs. Their strength lay in 
mobility, most of the Sikhs being good horse- 
men, armed with sword, spear, matchlocks, 
and bows. The footmen were employed in 
holding forts and in following up the cavalry 
to bring away plunder. The Akalis, always 
dressed in the sacred blue garments, were 
heavily armed, and in addition carried 
several thin sharp-edged quoits (the ancient 
discus) round their turbans, with which they 
cut down an enemy at a short distance. 
They kept up the fighting spirit when affairs 
were not going well, and were the forlorn- 
hope in many a fight. Some of the misls 
had a few guns taken from the debris of 
retiring armies, but beyond the prestige 
attached to their possession they were not 
used in the field. From all accounts these 
misldars were hard drinkers in their times of 
ease. Tobacco and snuff being Mahomedan 
indulgences, were expressly forbidden by 
Govind to his Sikhs, but as a set-off in the 
way of stimulants they were allowed to drink 
spirits, prohibited to Moslem and Brahman 



76 THE SIKHS. 

by their religion, and for this the authority 
of Nanak was quoted : — 

" Eat and give others to eat, 
Drink and give others to drink, 
Be happy and make others happy." 

These drinking-bouts are another relic of 
their Scythic origin. 

Wow that the Sikhs were the masters, they 
treated the Mahomedans with scant con- 
sideration, in revenge for former persecution 
at their hands. They were little better than 
serfs, only employed as menials, or at best 
as tenants, to till the ground they had 
owned. Those who had embraced the 
religion of Govind did not fare much better 
than those who had adhered to their faith. 
As a rule they were from the class who had 
been forcibly converted to Mahomedanism 
by the Afghan, and the Sikhs despised them 
for having refused to die for their religion. 
Despite the strong democratic sentiment in 
the misis, which at first selected their chiefs, 
the position of sardar became hereditary in 
families. They seem to have drifted towards 



THE SIKH CONFEDERACIES. 77 

this just as the Guruship, which commenced 
as a democratic institution, became hered- 
itary, thereby firmly establishing the Sikh 
religion. Political influence and power thus 
fell into the hands of a military aristocracy 
— an oligarchy based on republican prin- 
ciples. There were no wide distinctions 
between class and class. Powerful as was the 
influence of bold independent action which 
brought fame and rank, it was an influence 
which pervaded all, and in which none was 
too poor to share. Friendship or a distant 
relationship made the minor chief partake 
the feeling of his feudal superior, and he 
in his turn formed a link between the 
highest and his own humble dependants. 
Simplicity of habits was the habit of all. 
The owner of twenty acres was as proud and 
independent as he of hundreds, boasting the 
same descent and the same exclusive posses- 
sion of arms and land. They wove into the 
interpretation of Govind's stern creed their 
own military characteristics. The articles of 
that creed nursed all the strength of national 



78 THE SIKHS. 

feeling, and evolved an individuality built 
upon traditions, the brotherhood bond of 
the pahal, and a common cause, resulting 
in a distinct type of mind, character, and 
physique. They became a select ruling 
race, self-confident and independent, the 
bone and sinew of the mass of the people. 
At the close of the eighteenth century 
the Sikh confederacies formed an unruly 
republic in which arms more than laws 
prevailed, and courage preferably to equity 
and justice was the virtue most valued and 
respected. 



CHAPTER VII. 



SARDAR RANJIT SINGH. 



Ranjit Singh's family history is much the 
same as that of other sardars who rose in 
the eighteenth century from the ranks of 
the Jats. His ancestors with their village 
occupations alternated freebooting, which 
the oppressed peasantry had to practise to 
supplement the precarious subsistence they 
got from the soil, the long - continued ex- 
actions of the Mahomedan conquerors having 
reduced all to a dead level of poverty. The 
saying among them was that nothing was 
left for them except what was actually in 
their mouths. About the middle of the 
seventeenth century one of his forefathers, 
a quiet industrious man, took to preaching 
the religion of JN"anak in his village and 



80 THE SIKHS. 

neighbourhood north of Lahore. His dying 
injunction to his young son was to study 
the holy book and become a Sikh. This 
he did towards the end of the century at 
Amritsar, on attaining the age of discretion, 
the time when the baptism of the pahal is 
administered. He was not of the peaceful 
disposition of his father, for on returning 
home he associated himself with a band of 
cattle-lifters, and on Guru Govind Singh's 
appeal to the Sikhs he went south to the 
scene of action, became the leader of his 
band, and won the reputation of being the 
boldest and most resolute of the fraternity 
in capturing the enemy's herds and bringing 
them away north. Becoming thereby a man 
of importance and some wealth, he was 
elected headman of his village. When he 
died in 1716 his eldest son promoted him- 
self in the profession and became a gentle- 
man of the highway, which, compared with 
cattle -lifting, was considered more honour- 
able and lucrative. He was notorious for 
boldness, and amassed what in those times 



SARDAR RAN JIT SINGH. 81 

was looked on as riches. He joined a misl 
at the time of the first Afghan invasion in 
1748, which by plundering the baggage and 
stragglers of the army secured much booty 
for its members. A wound in action led 
to his death in 1752, when his son Oharat 
Singh, grandfather of Ranjit Singh, suc- 
ceeded to his patrimony of three ploughs 
and a well, representing about thirty acres 
of land. He separated himself from the 
misl his father had joined, formed an in- 
dependent band of 150 horsemen, and be- 
came a noted freebooter and guerilla leader 
during the stormy times of the repeated 
Afghan invasions. He took forcible posses- 
sion of some villages, united with another 
successful leader like himself, and formed 
a misl, of which he became the active chief, 
calling it after the name of his native 
village. He next captured a town held 
by the Government troops, killed the com- 
mander, and carried away much plunder 
and munitions of war, then built a fort as 
his stronghold, which was attacked by the 

F 



82 THE SIKHS. 

Mahomedan Governor of Lahore, whom he 
defeated. His misl now became powerful, 
and its prestige attracted many recruits to 
his banner. On Ahmad Shah of Kabul re- 
tiring in 1767 after his final invasion, he 
followed him up, captured the fort of Rhotas 
and several Mahomedan towns, and occupied 
the country north of the Jhelum. He con- 
tributed much to the success of the Sikhs 
at this final struggle for ascendancy. When 
the dreaded Afghan king had gone the 
sardars took to fighting among themselves 
for power. His successes involved him in 
conflicts with rival misls, and he died in the 
field in 1774 while engaged in one of these 
contests. He left a large territory to his 
young son Maha Singh, then ten years old, 
whose mother assumed charge for him during 
his minority. Sikh ladies played an im- 
portant part in the history of these warlike 
times. She ruled with vigour and diplomacy 
until her son, at the age of fifteen, cut his 
leading-strings and took the field at the 
head of his misl, to follow in his father's 



SARDAR RANJIT SINGH. 83 

victorious steps. He extended his influence 
and possessions by invading a powerful 
Mahomedan tribe on the Chenab, then de- 
feated another confederacy, and routed and 
humbled many rival sardars, showing him- 
self brave, enterprising, and prudent beyond 
his years. Many influential independent 
chiefs joined him, attracted by his courage 
in action and military ability, qualities 
which were inherited by his son Eanjit 
Singh, who as a boy of twelve succeeded 
him at his death in 1792. 

Eanjit Singh, the national hero of the 
Sikhs, was born in 1780, and at an early 
age was afflicted by virulent smallpox, 
which left him disfigured and with the 
loss of an eye. The one-eyed boy grew 
up short of stature, and as chief of a 
misl he seemed what might be called a 
" sport" among the stalwart Jats who sur- 
rounded him ; but he early showed com- 
manding spirit, ability, and military genius, 
which maxked him as their superior in 
action, in intellect, diplomacy, and all the 



84 THE SIKHS. 

qualities which ensure success. When he 
first, as a boy of twelve, stood in his 
father's place everything was against him. 
He was beset by enemies, by doubtful 
friends, false allies, and open foes. No care 
had been bestowed on his education ; the 
little he had was that of the camp, as he 
often accompanied his father in his ex- 
peditions. A regency composed of his 
mother and his "father's minister ruled the 
confederacy in his name, but the guiding 
spirit in his interest was a Sikh lady to 
whose daughter he was affianced. She was 
one of the most artful and ambitious of her 
sex who ever figured in Sikh history, and 
became the ladder by which Ranjit Singh 
ascended to power : a masterful woman, 
the widow of a sardar — heir to a rival misl 
— killed while fighting against Maha Singh, 
she aimed, by bringing about a marriage 
alliance between her daughter and Ranjit 
Singh, to secure his support to her claims 
to the sardarship of the misl to which her 
husband would have succeeded. This she 



SARDAR RAN JIT SINGH. 85 

effected in a short time, and proved a 
valuable ally to her son-in-law. Under her 
counsel Eanjit Singh looked to alliances 
before he went to war. At the age of 
seventeen heredity asserted itself : he freed 
himself from the control of his guardians, 
and engaged in operations against the 
Mahomedan tribes and in defence of his 
mother - in - law's possessions, showing the 
marked ability of his bold father which 
had so impressed the sardars. 

When the Shah of Kabul invaded the 
Punjab for the last time in 1798 he, to 
show his power, formed a coalition and 
proceeded to subdue distant tribes and 
exact tribute. He subsequently came in 
to pay his respects to the Shah, with the 
result, as has been related, of attracting 
his attention and gaining by diplomacy 
what he desired, the royal grant of the 
governorship of Lahore, which place he 
occupied in 1799, loyally aided by his 
astute mother-in-law. Firmly established 
there, he consolidated his possessions and 



86 THE SIKHS. 

made arrangements to secure his authority 
as governor of the capital. His success 
alarmed other raids, and a powerful coali- 
tion was formed in 1800 to wrest Lahore 
from him. He went out to meet the con- 
federates, broke them up, seized the posses- 
sions of the most powerful, and defeated 
in detail his declared enemies in other 
parts of the country. A king had now 
appeared among the lions. Lahore was 
ever after left in his undisturbed possession. 
In the following year, 1801, he formally 
assumed the title of Maharaja, going through 
the Hindu equivalent of a coronation cere- 
mony, proclaimed that he was now to be 
styled " Sarkar," signifying power and state, 
established a mint, and issued in token of 
sovereignty a coin in his name bearing the 
inscription, " Hospitality, the Sword, Vic- 
tory, and Conquest unfailing from Guru 
Govind Singh to Nanak." 

The Sikhs had now reached nationhood 
under an able king fully equipped with 
confidence and energy, who, by trans- 



SARDAR RANJIT SINGH. 87 

forming the Khalsa into a territorial power, 
decided once and for all whether the Sikh 
or the Afghan was to rule the Punjab. 
Thus, after a hundred years of unflinching 
struggle, was fulfilled the prophecy of the 
martial Guru Govind Singh. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH. 

There was still much land to be possessed, 
Pathan governors to be expelled, and in- 
dependent Sikh misls to be subdued, before 
the young Maharaja became absolute master 
of the Punjab. Fortified by prestige, the 
belief of others in him, he proceeded by 
force and craft to effect this. One by one 
all fell under his absorbing sway. Equality 
among the sardars was a fundamental law of 
the Khalsa, but was now observed much as 
other laws enacting equality have ever been. 
The hour had come and with it the man, 
when it became necessary to establish 
a central authority for the organised 
unity of the State. The copartnery sys- 
tem had served its purpose while it was 



MAHARAJA BAN JIT SINGH. 89 

the policy to oppose the Mahomedan every- 
where in the land, whether Moghul, Persian, 
or Afghan — the policy of a struggle for 
life ; but the sardars, long accustomed to 
independent action, ill-brooked the change 
to Ranjit Singh's policy of a struggle for 
one-man power, and often in durbar an 
old chief would address him as "brother" 
and speak out his mind regarding the new 
order of Khalsa affairs. The Sikhs soon 
found in their Maharaja a master who could 
unite them, and under whom they grew 
into a coherent nation stretching from the 
Sutlej to the Khaibar, from Multan to 
Kashmir. Not till he had proved his 
superiority over the numerous chieftains, 
who with their feudal followers formed the 
force of the Khalsa, did the Sikhs rise to 
that political and military prominence in 
which we found them in 1838, when the 
tripartite alliance was made, which led to 
the first Afghan war, for the restoration 
of the Durrani kingdom of Kabul in the 
person of Shah Suja, who, with his brother 



90 THE SIKHS. 

Shah Zaman, from whom Ranjit Singh 
wrested the Punjab, had by an ironical 
stroke of fate been driven out of Afghan- 
istan to take refuge in the country which 
the Durranis had so often subdued. In 
the execution of his policy to abolish 
feudal tenures he not only annexed the 
possessions of actively hostile rivals, but 
exacted death duties on every occasion of 
a sardar dying, leaving only small estates 
for their families, sweeping the rest into 
his treasury. He created his own army, 
giving rank and commands to his partisans, 
and where any chiefs were left with terri- 
tory and power instituted "man-rent" in 
the form of contingents of irregular troops 
at his disposal for service. 

In 1803 the British captured Delhi from 
the Mahrattas, the one strong native power 
then left in India. Those who still kept 
the field were followed up by Lord Lake, 
who defeated them wherever they stood. 
He pursued Holkar, their chief, who fled 
to the Punjab with the remnants of his 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 91 

once powerful and numerous army in the 
hope of finding an ally in the Sikhs. In 
alarm at finding the Mahrattas and British 
in their midst, a " Guru Mata," or National 
Council of the Khalsa, was held at Amritsar 
for the last time. They decided to stand 
aloof, and Kanjit Singh acted as mediator. 
The Mahrattas sued for peace from the 
victorious Lake, renounced all their pos- 
sessions and claims in Northern India, and 
the Sikhs agreed to have no further concern 
with them. What Eanjit Singh heard then 
from the Mahrattas, and what he saw of 
the disciplined strength of the British army, 
made a deep impression on him. He de- 
termined then and there to be at peace 
with the dreaded advancing Power. He 
knew his own weakness. He had yet to 
give complete unity to the scattered Sikh 
elements, so he proposed to Lord Lake, in 
order to maintain friendly relations, that 
the Sutlej river should be the boundary 
between Sikh and Briton ; but as the British 
Government had inaugurated a strict policy 



92 THE SIKHS. 

of non-interference north of Delhi, nothing 
then came of this. 

In 1806 Kanjit Singh crossed the river 
with a large force to assert his power 
among the Malwa Sikhs, as those in the 
Cis-Sutlej states are called, on which the 
British strengthened their frontier post 
north of Delhi. Again in 1807 and 1808 
he crossed in force, levying tribute as 
King of all the Sikhs. The Patiala and 
other chiefs were alarmed. They saw they 
must either submit to Ranjit Singh or seek 
the protection of the British. They unani- 
mously declined to accept him as their 
overlord and threw themselves on the pro- 
tection of the British, saying that they had 
always been more or less under the wing 
of whoever was master of Delhi. The policy 
of non-interference — of masterly inactivity 
— had now undergone a change. An 
English envoy was sent to Lahore armed 
with an ultimatum, to negotiate a treaty 
on the condition of the independence of 
the Malwa Sikhs, and the Sutlej as the 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 93 

boundary of the Maharaja's dominion, 
British troops at the same time advancing 
to that river. By right of conquest the 
British inherited the power formerly exer- 
cised by the Mahrattas in this region when 
in possession of Delhi. Eanjit Singh, see- 
ing that the British were in earnest, 
prudently concluded a treaty, agreeing to 
withdraw his claims over the Cis-Sutlej 
states and to recognise the river as the 
eastern boundary of his kingdom. He 
feared that other independent chiefs in the 
Punjab might claim British protection and 
defeat his cherished plan of kingship. Thus 
was preserved the independence of the 
Sikh states, called the Phulkian, which 
exists at the present day. 

The Phulkian misl, one of the most power- 
ful of the original twelve Sikh confederacies, 
comprises the states of Patiala, Jhind, and 
Nabha. The founder was one Phul, a Jat 
of ancient lineage connected with Jesulmeer 
in the Rajputana desert, colonised by Jats 
who in the eleventh century migrated there 



94 THE SIKHS. 

from Multan, extending to Sirhind, about 
the same time that others of the tribe es- 
tablished themselves on the Jumna below 
Delhi, carving out the present Jat principal- 
ities of Bhurtpore and Dholpore. Phul built 
a village in 1640, calling it after his name. 
The Delhi emperor patronised him. He em- 
braced the Sikh religion, and his seven sons 
became the ancestors of the reigning families 
of Patiala,- Jhind, and Nabha. Other minor 
families sprang from them, all attaining to 
wealth and power. The chief of Patiala 
took the lead, and his successes over the 
Pathans and Rajputs brought many Sikhs 
from over the Sutlej to his banner. Ahmad 
Shah of Kabul, the conqueror of Delhi, to 
whom the Punjab was ceded by the Mog- 
huls, made him Governor of Sirhind, with 
the title of Raja, later on investing his son 
with the insignia of an independent prince. 
Often the State was under the influence of 
women of courage, wisdom, and activity, 
who fought in person at the head of their 
troops. One of these Ranis in the field 



MAHARAJA BAN JIT SINGH. 95 

against the Mahrattas turned the fortune of 
the day by personal valour, drawing her 
sword and addressing her soldiers : " I have 
resolved not to retreat. It would be a 
shame for the Sikh nation if at this moment 
they left a woman, the sister of their 
sovereign, to be slain by their enemies/' 
The British Government, by throwing its 
mantle over these states in 1809, saved them 
from the rapacity and absorbing power of 
Ranjit Singh ; and they have ever since 
proved their gratitude by conspicuous at- 
tachment to their suzerain, markedly so in 
the darkest days of the great military revolt 
in 1857. 

Though the Maharaja felt this check to 
his ambition, he soon brought his mind to 
see the great advantage which this treaty 
secured him. The Sutlej was a well-marked 
geographical as well as political frontier. 
He fully trusted the British. He knew he 
was safe in that quarter, so was now free to 
direct his whole force in other directions 
where he had yet many enemies to over- 



96 THE SIKHS. 

come, and to pursue his policy of reducing 
to subjection all sardars and Mahomedan 
chiefs within his kingdom having any pre- 
tensions to independence and power. Soon 
all the Sikh confederacies were swept away 
except the Ahluwalia, now represented by 
the Eaja of Kapurthalla, who had gained 
the interest of the British Government by 
services rendered at the time Lord Lake 
drove tl\e Mahrattas into the Punjab. 

When the English envoy was at Amritsar 
in 1809 negotiating the treaty, his small 
military escort was attacked by a large 
body of the fanatical Akali Sikhs, who 
were completely routed by the few dis- 
ciplined redcoats. Ranjit Singh witnessed 
this, apologised for the outrage, compli- 
mented the envoy on the bravery of his 
soldiers, and expressed his admiration of 
their steadiness. He realised the effect of 
their discipline as absolutely decisive against 
the courage and numbers of his own fiercest 
soldiers devoid of organisation. It was an 
object - lesson to him which decided him 



MAHARAJA BAN JIT SINGH. 97 

to train his army according to European 
methods. He commenced by means of some 
deserters from the Indian army to drill his 
men, and formed a few battalions of Sikhs, 
Hindostanis, and Gurkhas after the British 
model, adopting the red coat. The turbu- 
lent Sikhs at first resented the new order 
of things. He had great difficulty in in- 
ducing them to abandon their old weapons 
and mode of fighting, but with tact and 
patience won them over by good pay and 
rations, and by personal example in shoulder- 
ing the musket himself, wearing the red 
coat, and drilling in the ranks under the 
instructors. 

The Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, 
when returning in 1810 from a mission to 
the Durrani King of Afghanistan, gives an 
account of his first meeting with a detach- 
ment of Sikh soldiers of that day guarding 
the Indus frontier. Contrasted with the 
Afghan Court and army he found them very 
Goths in manners and habits, loud talking, 
boisterous, and addicted to drinking-bouts. 



98 THE SIKHS. 

They were tall and muscular, wild-looking, 
with uncut beards and long hair, legs bare 
up to the thighs, wearing loose scarves 
thrown over one shoulder, armed with sword 
and shield, matchlock, spear, and also the 
bow and arrows of their forefathers, with 
which they were expert. Chiefs and men 
all sat down together to eat and drink on 
a footing of equality. They obeyed instruc- 
tions, but there was little order. They were 
merely unruly guerillas. 

Like other Indian princes who succeeded 
in raising their armies to any degree of 
efficiency, Ranjit Singh appreciated the 
value of European officers. In 1822 two 
French colonels arrived at Lahore by way 
of Persia in search of military employment, 
asking if they could render any service by 
their " knowledge of the art of war acquired 
as superior officers under the immediate 
command of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, 
Sovereign of France." They were told to 
write out their application in French, and 
this was sent to the English political 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 99 

officer at the frontier for translation. The 
Maharaja was satisfied, and took them into 
his service as generals. Two others followed 
who had also served in the Napoleonic wars, 
and were given the same rank. Eventually 
about twenty foreign officers of various 
nationalities were employed in the Sikh 
army, some of whom were now and then 
placed in charge of districts as governors. 
With their aid he put into execution his 
cherished design to convert his horde of 
horsemen into a trained regular army, and 
established arsenals for the manufacture of 
cannon, small-arms, ammunition, and mili- 
tary stores. 

These European officers were handsomely 
paid, and enjoyed the confidence of the 
Maharaja, but were never consulted in 
affairs of State. The ablest and most im- 
portant among them were the four French 
officers who first arrived — Generals Ventura, 
Allard, Court, and Avitabile. They held 
the commands of the strong trained divisions 
of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, the first 



100 THE SIKHS. 

in rank, equipment, and discipline, forming 
the old guard of the army on which Ranjit 
Singh relied for success. All were dismissed 
after his death during the anarchy which 
then prevailed, the sardars being jealous 
of their influence among the troops. Dr 
Wolff, the Eastern traveller, gives an 
amusing account of meeting one of these 
foreigners in Sikh employ. Arriving late 
one night at the town of Gujrat, he was 
taken to the governor's house, when to his 
surprise he heard some one singing " Yankee 
Doodle" with the true American tone. It 
was the governor himself! Wolff asked 
him how he came to know this pleasant 
song, and received the reply, "I am a free 
citizen of the United States, from the State 
of Pennsylvania, city of Philadelphia. I 
am the son of a Quaker. My name is 
Josiah Harlan." When roving in the 
Afghan border, he was captured by the 
Sikhs. Ranjit Singh, appreciating his 
talents, told him, " I will make you Gover- 
nor of Gujrat, and give you 3000 rupees 



MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH. 101 

a - month. If you behave well I will 
increase your salary ; if not, I will cut off 
your nose." 

Enlistment in the trained Sikh army was 
quite voluntary, and once the objection to 
the changes introduced was overcome, the 
service was very popular, the men being 
picked from large numbers of candidates, 
which rendered the army capable of ex- 
pansion in an emergency. He also incor- 
porated in the ranks his various subjects, 
Dogra Rajputs and Punjabi Mahomedans. 
Opposing elements were useful to him on 
occasions. The pay was good, higher than 
in the Indian army, but no pensions were 
given. Special attention was paid to the 
training of infantry and artillery as the 
principal arms for pitched battles. Except 
in head- and foot-gear they were dressed 
and accoutred like the British, in red and 
blue, with regimental facings to distinguish 
corps. The organised cavalry, under a 
French general, were trained and uniformed 
as cuirassiers and dragoons a la Francais. 



102 THE SIKHS. 

In addition there was a large force of light 
troops in the form of irregular cavalry and 
infantry which certain chiefs had to furnish 
on requisition, all armed after their own 
fashion, the cavalry wearing chain-armour 
and steel helmets, round which they wound 
turbans — the helmets similar to those worn 
by the Parthians who overwhelmed the 
legions of Orassus, and by the soldiers of 
Saladin and Tymur. 

Ranjit Singh's reign was one long cam- 
paign in consolidating his power. By 1831, 
after repeated attempts, he had at last 
brought into subjection the Mahomedan 
provinces of Multan, Kashmir, and Pesh- 
awar, the Rajput hill states, and all other 
independent chiefs. His supremacy ex- 
tended to the foothills beyond the Indus, 
to Ladakh in Thibet beyond Kashmir, and 
to the snowy Himalayas in the north. 

Shah Suja, the last of the Durrani dyn- 
asty, was driven out of Afghanistan in 1822, 
and the country was divided among the 
Barakzai chiefs (the present ruling house in 



MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH. 103 

Kabul), one of whom held Peshawar as a 
vassal of the Sikhs, while his brother, Amir 
Dost Mahomed, ruled Kabul — he who played 
such an important part against the British 
in the first Afghan war. He plotted to re- 
cover Peshawar. This decided Eanjit Singh 
in 1834 regularly to annex it. He met the 
Afghans under the Amir and forced them 
to retreat. When hotly pushing on to re- 
trieve a check to his advanced troops, he 
boldly at much loss forded the Indus at the 
head of 15,000 cavalry, crossing his light 
guns on elephants, and swept through the 
valley. Another and last attempt was 
made in 1837 by the Afghans, led by 
the Amir, to recover Peshawar, when again 
they were defeated and retreated precip- 
itately. Fierce and sanguinary were the 
struggles for the possession of the northern 
gate into the Punjab. There the Sikhs de- 
cisively overcame the Pathans in a deadly 
tug of war, and also stemmed the tide of 
Wahabi invasion so fraught with danger to 
India. 



104 THE SIKHS. 

The occupation of Peshawar was Ranjit 
Singh's last campaign ; it effectually sealed 
the solidarity of his power. There was now 
nothing more left in the Punjab for him 
to conquer, and he longed to extend his 
sway over the rich lands of Sindh south of 
Multan, for he was a conqueror at heart, 
animated to the end of his life with all 
the energy and fire of his early days of 
power. Being checkmated in this design 
by the British, he quietly controlled the 
hostile element at his Court, which urged 
him to action. On one of his sons, impelled 
by the war party, at a great parade implor- 
ing his father to let him lead the army 
against the English, the reply was, "No, 
my son ; remember the two hundred thou- 
sand Mahratta spearmen who opposed the 
English ; not one remains." Some of the 
old Sikh sardars, whose blood never ran cool 
enough for diplomacy, were very free now 
and then in expressing their ideas regarding 
his policy. A few years before, when the 
Jats of Bhurtpore, besieged by a British 



MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH. 105 

force, begged for his aid, which he refused, 
they, to mark their opinion of his conduct 
in not responding to the call of his kindred 
race, sent him a woman's garments ; but 
it had no effect in his decision to abide by 
his treaty not to cross the Sutlej. His 
opinion of them was that although they 
were capable as generals they were incap- 
able as "men of affairs." When the first 
Afghan war was decided on to eject Dost 
Mahomed and restore the Durrani kingdom, 
he joined in the alliance with the British 
against the wish of his sardars, who advo- 
cated independent Sikh action beyond 
Peshawar, but he adhered to his decision 
and faithfully performed his part. 

He died in 1839, while the British army 
was in Afghanistan, but his policy was 
maintained by his sons to the close of the 
war, true to their father's trust. He never 
wavered in his loyalty to the treaty made 
by him in 1809 at a critical time in the 
history of the Sikh nation. Prom the first 
when he met the British, although he had 



106 THE SIKHS. 

Holkar and the Mahrattas as refugees sup- 
plicating an alliance, and all Hindostan was 
in a blaze, he formed a clear conception of 
English strength and resources, and acquired 
a great respect for their character. Though 
a man of immense ambition, he was gifted 
with a far-sightedness that few Indian rulers 
have possessed, and one of the main lines 
of his policy was to keep his word with the 
British and avoid under all circumstances 
collision with them. To his death he re- 
mained with them on terms of implicit con- 
fidence and the utmost friendliness, and 
never ceased to impress on all around him 
to maintain this as they valued their inde- 
pendence ; but that he had doubts in his 
mind as to what the future might bring 
was shown when, a short time before his 
death, on looking at a map of India, he 
asked why so much of it was coloured red, 
and being told it marked British territory, 
he said with a sigh, "It will soon be all 
red." 

The only time when he ever apparently 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 107 

showed any doubt of the good faith of the 
British was, as related by the French Gen- 
eral Allard, on the occasion of his going 
to meet the Governor -General of India in 
1831 on the banks of the Sutlej, a meeting 
which he desired politically in order to 
strengthen his status. Some of his sardars 
were very averse to this, fearing kidnapping, 
which as a recognised method of political 
action was not unknown among the Sikhs 
as well as in other countries in olden times. 
He however proceeded in state with a large 
force, encamping on his side of the river, 
the British camp being on the other. The 
night before he was to cross over to the 
British camp he suddenly changed his mind, 
having been again warned that he would 
act unwisely in leaving his own territory 
to meet the English on their ground ; 
that it would be safer to have the meeting 
at Amritsar, or to postpone it altogether. 
He sent for his French General Allard to 
inform him that he would not attend the 
meeting next morning. Allard argued with 



108 THE SIKHS. 

him to allay his apprehensions, and offered 
to stake his head that nothing unpleasant 
would happen. The Court astrologers were 
summoned ; after consulting their mystic 
books they declared that the British were 
his sincere friends, and that the meeting 
would lead to more valuable friendship be- 
tween the two States, but they also advised 
him to hold an apple in each hand, and on 
meeting the Governor-General to offer him 
one of these, keeping the other himself. If 
it was accepted the meeting would be favour- 
able, and the visit could be carried out with- 
out the least fear. The next morning, when 
he crossed mounted on an elephant sur- 
rounded by his sardars and escort of Allard's 
dragoons, on meeting Lord George Bentinck 
he presented the apple to him, which was 
at once accepted. Delighted at this good 
omen, he stepped from his howdah into that 
of the Governor -General and proceeded to 
the audience tent, vivacious and charming 
every one by his manners, full of inquiry 
about all he saw. It may be that this little 



MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH. 109 

comedy of nervous fear was played by the 
clever Maharaja to show his suspicious sar- 
dars how ignorant they were to judge of his 
English friends by themselves. 

Seven years later, in 1838, he again went 
to meet the Governor - General at Feroze- 
pore, where the British army was assembled 
prior to the invasion of Afghanistan. There 
was no opposition then from his sardars. 
On this occasion Lord Auckland in state 
made a return visit to the Maharaja at 
Amritsar, being received with great honour 
and cordiality. With his staff he accom- 
panied his royal host to the sacred Golden 
Temple, where they sat side by side listen- 
ing to an oration by the priest to the effect 
that the two potentates were brothers and 
friends, and never could be otherwise. He 
took his own line, determined to show how 
complete his confidence was, and, to the 
amazement of his ministers and sardars, 
and against their wishes, conducted his 
English friends over the fort of Govindgurh, 
kept carefully guarded and only opened to 



110 THE SIKHS. 

his personal order, where his treasures were 
stored, allowing all the officers of the British 
escort, and even the engineers, to inspect it. 
His people then said that they now saw 
Sikhs and Englishmen were "to be all of 
one family and to live in the same house." 
Afterwards at an evening entertainment he 
took up a yellow-red apple, remarking on its 
colours, the yellow the favourite colour of 
the Sikhs and the red that of England, 
blended together as a symbol of the alliance 
of the two kingdoms, — a fruit pleasant to 
look upon and solid to the core. The treaty 
of perpetual friendship was then renewed. 

Ranjit Singh was a unique personality 
among the rude Jats of those times. De- 
ficient in the physical characteristics that 
win respect from barbarians, yet by his 
personal bravery, ability, and address he 
drew all around him to his wishes. He 
knew when to execute, when to yield, and 
how to contract his measures. With a 
clear conception of the object in view, 
when it became necessary to secure it by 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. ill 

force he ruthlessly employed every means 
to gain it, always "grasping his nettles." 
As a soldier, though he sacrificed his men 
with prodigality to win the day, yet he 
was carefully economical of their lives. 
They were devotedly attached to him, all 
feeling under his command the exhilarating 
effects of confident success. Generous to 
the vanquished, it never being his policy 
to reduce any one to desperation, there 
seems to have been no sentimental mani- 
festations in his politics, as he would not 
allow to remain any remnants of hostile 
power enough to furnish the elements of 
revival — to stultify his main purpose of 
rendering rebellion impossible. Continuity 
was the essence of his policy. Though 
illiterate, he managed better than others 
more learned to transact the current duties 
of his state by means of his retentive 
memory, quickness of mind, and keen ob- 
servation. The evolution of a monarchy 
was irresistible under his masterful action. 
He w r as at home in the saddle and in 



112 THE SIKHS. 

camp among his soldiers, taking his meals 
in their presence. Love of horses was a 
passion with him ; he procured the best at 
all costs from far and near, once even 
sending an army under his son and a 
French general to secure at an exorbitant 
price a celebrated one from his Pathan 
vassal at Peshawar. Possessing great powers 
of endurance, he was given to long journeys 
on horseback, surprise visits to distant parts 
of his dominions enabling him to check his 
governors in their reports as to revenue 
and other matters. His Court was brilliant 
with oriental pageantry, but personally he 
was free from pomp and show, and so 
scrupulously simple in his dress among his 
gorgeously clad sardars as to be distin- 
guished among the distinguished ; yet all 
feared him. Notwithstanding his apparent 
insignificant appearance, at first sight in 
strong contrast to the stalwart chiefs about 
him, he at once impressed and charmed 
foreign visitors by his superior mind, frank 
manners, and speech. 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 113 

Captain Burnes, the English envoy sent 
in 1831 with a letter and presents from 
King William IV. of England, writes of 
his reception, when he suddenly found him- 
self in the arms and tight embrace of a 
" diminutive old -looking man/' the great 
Maharaja Ranjit Singh: "I never quitted 
the presence of a native of India with such 
impressions as I left this man. Without 
education and without a guide he conducts 
all the affairs of his kingdom with surpassing 
energy and vigour, and yet he wields his 
power with a consideration quite unpre- 
cedented in an Indian prince." In con- 
versation with him he praised the bravery 
of his Sikhs, to whom he acknowledged he 
owed his success ; that they were devoted 
to their duty and free from prejudice ; 
would in emergencies carry eight days' 
provisions on their backs, dig wells when 
water was scarce, build forts and construct 
roads. Jacquemont, the distinguished French 
oriental traveller, who visited him at Lahore, 
wrote of him as an extraordinary man, a 

H 



114 THE SIKHS. 

Bonaparte in miniature. " His conversation 
is like a nightmare. He is almost the first 
inquisitive Indian I have met, and his 
curiosity balances the apathy of his nation. 
He has asked me a hundred thousand ques- 
tions about India, the British, Europe, Bona- 
parte, this world in general and the next, 
hell, Paradise, God, the devil, and a myriad 
of others of the same kind." 

King and political head of the Punjab, as 
well as chief of the Khalsa, he aimed at 
reconciling the varied divisions of race and 
creed among his subjects by employing all 
in his service. He kept up, however, the 
theory of the Khalsa, attributing every 
success to the favour of the Guru in the 
name of the Lord. "God the helper — 
Ranjit Singh," was his sign -manual. The 
Sikhs retained special privileges as the 
ruling race, the heart and soul of the 
military nation — the favoured of the State. 
As landowners they were lightly assessed, 
while all others were heavily taxed. Much 
scope was given to their individual ambition, 



MAHARAJA RAN J IT SINGH. 115 

which maintained the independence of their 
character. 

Many of the old orthodox Sikhs lamented 
his assumption of irresponsible power, which 
destroyed the theocratic Khalsa policy of 
preventing any one chief establishing abso- 
lute power ; and they recalled the days of 
equality when he lived at Amritsar as one 
of themselves, though the first among the 
equals. They viewed with alarm his Court 
surroundings of men who were not Sikhs, 
who encouraged him to confine the Jats to 
the army as not clever enough for statecraft. 
The Brahmans and Dogra Eajput chiefs 
looked on them as inferiors, only fit as 
soldiers to obey their orders. Their object 
was to adopt the Mahratta policy — to com- 
bine the Sikh fighting power with their 
statesmanship. The rude Jat soldiery were 
eventually at the mercy of these intriguers. 
Govind Singh's warning against the class 
was forgotten. The Maharaja's religious 
tolerance was not agreeable to the old school, 
who reproached him for countenancing the 



116 THE SIKHS. 

presence of Hindu and Moslem ascetics 
at his Court, and departing from the 
doctrines of those who had shed their blood 
to found a purified faith. Clever Brahmans 
exercised influence over him during his last 
days to such an extent that at their instiga- 
tion he resorted to the " pious tricks" for 
securing salvation denounced by Guru 
Govind Singh, by giving away to them to 
gain their prayers for him all his jewels, 
horses, and other personal valuables. He 
even willed away as a gift to the Hindu 
shrine of Juggarnath the great Koh-i-noor 
diamond, formerly taken from Delhi by 
Nadir Shah, and which had been extorted 
from Shah Suja of Kabul when he fled to 
Lahore ; but the peerless gem was saved by 
the state treasurer refusing to pass it out 
for dedication, as he said it was Government 
property which should not be given away in 
alms. In this he was supported by the 
sardars, who associated its possession with 
the independence of the Sikh kingdom, it 
being a saying of the Maharaja's that who- 



MAHARAJA RAN JIT SINGH. 117 

ever owned it would be the conqueror of the 
Punjab. 

Eanjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab as he 
was called, by courage, energy, promptness, 
and decision raised himself from the chief- 
ship of a freebooting clan to be a king whose 
friendship was sought by distant sovereigns 
and princes. He undoubtedly saved the 
Sikhs from anarchy, disintegration, and 
sinking into insignificance by his masterly 
action in binding them together at a time 
when, persecution and common danger 
having disappeared, the confederacies were, 
like a loosely tied bundle of faggots, inimical 
to one another and intent on personal 
aggrandisement. The misls had done their 
work, and union was absolutely necessary 
to preserve their strength. As Nanak woke 
up the people by reforming their religion, 
and Govind by stern discipline developed 
their political independence, so Eanjit Singh, 
with a wise old head on his young shoulders, 
seizing the opportunity to found a military 
monarchy on the fruits of their labours, gave 



118 THE SIKHS. 

coherence to the Sikh nation. He was a 
great man of action and a good ruler for his 
time, his Government — a mild despotism — 
being then the only one suited to control 
the diverse and turbulent elements in the 
Punjab. Under his strong hand such order 
and security reigned there as had never been 
known before. He left to his successor 
(unfortunately a weak man) a united king- 
dom, a territory larger than the present 
Italy, and a well-appointed trained army 
provided with the best weapons of the day, 
which the British, a few years later, found 
the most difficult to overcome that they 
had ever met in India. When he died the 
Sikh power was at its zenith, and then it 
exploded, disappearing in fierce but fading 
flames. 



i 



CHAPTER IX. 

DECLINE OF THE SIKH MONARCHY. 

The Sikh kingdom, built up by forty years 
of resolute ability, did not long survive its 
founder. Its vigorous life was summed up 
in the person of Ranjit Singh : he sym- 
bolised its unity ; he spoke for it to his 
neighbours. Neither his wisdom nor 
masterly spirit was in any measure pos- 
sessed by his successors. On the loss of 
his strong hand the State was torn asunder 
by dissensions between rival princes, mini- 
sters, queens, and sardars, and rapidly 
declined, until ten years later it fell by 
conquest to the British, on whom the Sikhs 
fatuously forced war. The Khalsa, the one 
united power left, became praetorian in 
character, selljng their services to the 



120 THE SIKHS. 

highest bidder. Army delegates decided 
in Council the fate of king and country, 
making and unmaking their rulers and 
officers. Murder was to settle every 
claimant, whether as Maharaja or Wuzir. 
There is not to be found in the annals of 
any country a more blood-stained record 
of relentless struggles for power than that 
of this epoch in Sikh history, when three 
Maharajas, three Wuzirs, and other aspir- 
ants to power in quick succession met 
violent deaths. 

Some time previous to his death Ranjit 
Singh had taken into special favour the 
family of his minister Raja Dhian Singh, 
a Dogra Rajput, consisting of his son and 
two brothers, upon all of whom he conferred 
the title of Raja with princely jagirs or 
fiefs for their maintenance. Poor, but of 
good family, they entered the Sikh service 
as troopers ; handsome and well-mannered, 
they soon attracted notice by their ability, 
and rapidly rose to high positions, where 
their influence in public affairs became 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 121 

paramount ; but not being Sikhs, they were 
looked on with great jealousy by the other 
sardars. They played a deep game in the 
intriguing policy of that time, bent on 
gaining power and wealth, and on becom- 
ing independent, a policy which ultimately 
was successful. 

The Dogra Rajputs, a branch of the old 
Aryan invaders of India, survived the 
Mahomedan invasions by occupying the 
hilly country north of the Punjab plains, 
where they maintained their independence 
till conquered by Ranjit Singh. They held 
aloof from the Sikh movement, as one in 
which their high caste was disregarded. 
They are strict Hindus, very clannish, loyal 
to their chiefs, and good soldiers, with all 
the Rajput pride of ancient lineage, dis- 
daining every service but that of arms. 

Kharak Singh, eldest son of Ranjit Singh, 
succeeded as Maharaja in 1839. He was 
weak in character and incompetent as a 
ruler. Under the evil influence of a syco- 
phant Court favourite, his father's minister 



122 THE SIKHS. 

was ignored and insulted, and a plan made 
to assassinate him; but this coming to his 
knowledge, he resolutely formed a coalition 
with Nao Nihal Singh, the Maharaja's only 
son, a capable youth of fiery temper, and 
some sardars, lineal descendants from a 
common ancestor with Ranjit, to depose 
Kharak, regarding whom a rumour had 
been set afloat that he contemplated sub- 
mission to the British when the Sikh army 
would be disbanded. This powerfully ap- 
pealed to the soldiery, who now looked on 
the Maharaja as a traitor to his country. 
The minister with his adherents entered 
the palace before sunrise, cut down the 
royal guards, penetrated to the private 
apartments, and killed the obnoxious 
favourite in the presence of his master. 
Kharak Singh was then deposed after a 
reign of three months, and his son Nao 
Nihal Singh placed on the throne. 

The deposed Maharaja died the following 
year, not without suspicion of poisoning, 
and the son mysteriously met his death 




PRINCE SHER SI NG H— M AH AR A J A OF THE PUNJAB, 1841-1843. 

(Son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.) 
clad in chain armour and steel helmet with heron plumes. 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 123 

by what was called an accident while re- 
turning from his father's funeral obsequies. 
The designing minister now supported the 
queen-mother in her claim to govern as 
regent, on the ground that her deceased 
son's widow was enceinte. He also at the 
same time inspired Prince Sher Singh, a 
son of Eanjit Singh, to advance his claim 
to the throne. An armed contest com- 
menced between the two claimants. The 
Prince appealed to the army, secured its 
aid by lavish promises, and made a dash 
at the capital, when the queen-mother with 
a Dogra force retired to the citadel and 
made a stout right against overwhelming 
numbers, but had to capitulate after a five 
days' siege, during which time some 
thousands were killed and the city of Lahore 
plundered. The loss of her life soon after- 
wards followed her loss of power. The 
clever Dogra Rajas on this occasion actively 
participated on both sides and secured much 
wealth. 

Sher Singh became Maharaja in 1841, 



124 THE SIKHS. 

but intrigue being rampant in the army, 
his Government lost all control over it. 
The military administration was now con- 
ducted by panchayats, or Councils of five 
delegates from each company in each regi- 
ment elected by their comrades — a demo- 
cratic mode of self-government common in 
India, in villages, guilds, and other bodies, 
— synonymous with "Vox populi, vox Dei," 
as according to the Indian saying, "God 
is in the panchayat" These army councils 
formulated demands for increased pay and 
the dismissal of all officers obnoxious to 
them. On being refused they murdered 
many of their officers, sending them " aloft," 
according to their slang, and then plundered 
Lahore. The European officers had to flee. 
The mutiny extended to the provinces, and 
for some months all government was in 
abeyance, the soldiery being complete 
masters. At last, tired of their own ex- 
cesses, they modified their requests, and 
tranquillity was restored. But from this 
time discipline and subordination ceased 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 125 

in the army ; the soldiers, conscious of their 
power, cared little for any authority. 

Maharaja Sher Singh on all occasions 
expressed himself favourable to the British, 
scrupulously adhering to his father's policy. 
It was solely owing to him that the 
British army, returning from Afghanistan 
in 1842, was allowed undisputed passage 
through the Punjab, many of the Sikh 
sardars being strongly disposed to attack 
it, as they thought the potent spell of 
victory so long attached to it had been 
broken at Kabul and by the policy of 
evacuating Afghanistan. His constancy 
exasperated the hostile party, of which the 
sardars who had taken part in deposing 
Kharak Singh were the active spirits, 
and they disputed Sher Singh's right to 
the throne as that of a reputed son only. 
They formed a plot to assassinate him. 
This was effected in 1843 while he was 
inspecting some cavalry on parade, and 
was followed by the murder of his son 
and heir and the rest of the family. The 



126 THE SIKHS. 

Dogra minister was in the plot ; but after 
the deed, while conferring with the con- 
spirators as to the future form of govern- 
ment, he was killed in order to get rid 
of the ascendancy of the powerful Dogras. 
Then followed further bloodshed. His son 
Raja Heera Singh appealed to the army 
to avenge these murders, and inflamed the 
soldiers by asserting that unless they 
acted with him the British would seize 
the Punjab and disband them, when, he 
added, from the Rajput point of view, 
" The Sikhs who now took a pride in the 
profession of arms would be compelled to 
seek an ignoble living by following the 
plough/' This, coupled with a promise to 
increase their pay by one-half, was enough 
for the soldiery, now masters of the gov- 
ernment. They in great force attacked 
the conspirators, who had shut themselves 
up in the citadel, captured it, and extir- 
pated them, Lahore being again sacked. 
The young Raja brought the head of his 
father's murderer to the widow, a noble 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 127 

Eajputni dame, who was waiting by her 
husband's body. She then said, placing 
his father's warrior plume on the son's 
turban : " My mind is now at perfect ease. 
Let the funeral pyre be prepared, and I 
will follow my lord in his journey to the 
next world. When I see your father I 
will tell him you acted as a brave and 
dutiful son." 

The assembled Councils decided to place 
on the throne Duleep Singh, a boy of ten, 
who had been tardily acknowledged as the 
youngest son of Eanjit Singh, with Raja 
Heera Singh as Wuzir. Again the army 
demanded concessions and also the dis- 
missal of the European officers, all of 
which were complied with, their power 
being irresistible. A brother Raja of the 
murdered Wuzir appeared on the scene as 
a claimant for the wuzirship. He was 
killed in his attempt to supplant his 
nephew. Then two young princes, adopted 
sons of Ranjit Singh, — Kishmira Singh and 
Peshora Singh, so called after the conquest 



128 THE SIKHS. 

of Kashmir and Peshawar, — bade for power, 
instigated by the last of the three Dogra 
brother Rajas. Some of the old Khalsa 
chiefs, although hostile to the Dogra party, 
took the bait and supported the claimants, 
hoping thereby to get one of themselves 
made Wuzir. The Maharani Jindan, mother 
of Duleep Singh, cajoled them and tem- 
porised with the object of getting rid of 
all rivals. She feared and distrusted them 
all, and schemed so that the minister who 
had placed her son on the throne, under 
whose patronage she chafed, was killed, 
and her brother, Sardar Jowahir Singh, 
appointed in his place. In the conflicts 
and intrigues the two princes were treach- 
erously slain. The rejoicings of the Court 
over this infuriated the army, with whom 
they were favourites as adopted sons of 
their old Maharaja, and they with some 
good reason ascribed their deaths to the 
new minister, being encouraged in this by 
the Dogra element. The Maharani was 
powerless in their hands : she bribed them, 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 129 

and even admitted the fact, recommending 
them to be quiet, as " there was no use 
in lamenting over those who were no 
longer among the living." They, however, 
swore to take vengeance on her brother 
as the author of the crime, and sent mess- 
ages to him demanding his presence 
before them to answer the charge. He 
ignored them. They then insisted on the 
Maharani coming to the main camp of 
the army with the young Maharaja and 
the minister, on pain of seeing her son 
deposed. She very reluctantly obeyed the 
summons, being assured by one of her 
Court advisers, Lai Singh, a Brahman 
sardar, who had his own aims in view, 
that all would go well. 

The State procession, escorted by the royal 
bodyguard, set out on the fateful visit, — the 
minister on an elephant holding in his arms 
the young Maharaja, the last of Ranjit 
Singh's acknowledged line, the queen-mother 
following in her golden howdah on another. 
As they approached the camp the Khalsa was 



130 THE SIKHS. 

assembled on parade ; there was a strange 
quiet along the line. The Maharaja was 
received with royal honours, his mother 
making lavish promises as she passed on. 
On reaching the centre a Sikh soldier came 
forward and gave the order to halt. The 
military councils, deliberating on the right 
of the line, had decided that the minister 
was guilty of the murder of the two princes 
and was to be executed. Suddenly the 
bugles sounded and the drums beat ; four 
battalions advanced, removed the escort to 
a distance, and surrounded the elephants of 
the cortege. Ten of the Council appeared ; 
the minister was ordered to descend. He 
tried parleying : a soldier ascended to his 
howdah and removed the young Maharaja, 
who was placed in his mother's arms. She 
was escorted to a tent prepared for her, 
holding up her son and crying for mercy in 
his name for her brother. The doomed 
minister was then executed in full view of 
the army. A soldier mounted his elephant, 
calling out, "How dare you disobey the 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 131 

order of the Khalsa?" bayoneted him and 
flung him to the ground, where he was at 
once despatched with many wounds. The 
Maharani heard her brother's cry of pain, 
and, cursing the Khalsa, flung away in her 
grief and rage the boy Maharaja, who was 
caught by a soldier. Thus did the Khalsa, 
with wild justice and in memory of their 
beloved old chief, avenge the murder of the 
two princes. Next morning, after an agon- 
ised scene over her brother's body, the queen 
with her son was escorted back to the 
palace. This took place in September 1845. 
Inconsolable for many weeks after this 
tragedy, she became regent and managed 
her own ministerial duties, but she was de- 
termined to be revenged. This judicial 
murder of her brother became the direct 
factor in bringing about war with the 
British. 

The power of the army was now at its 
height. The highest officers of the State 
dreaded it. There were no means of meet- 
ing its rapacity, as the treasury was empty. 



132 THE SIKHS. 

Anarchy reigned everywhere, and no revenue 
was forthcoming from the distant provinces. 
Stimulated by these internal dangers, the 
Durbar sought relief in external adventure. 
War with the British was to be the remedy. 
Anti-British feeling ever since the death of 
the wise Eanjit Singh was the prevailing 
weapon used in political intrigues. The fire 
which had been so long played with now 
became master. The idea of the Maharani 
in her spirit of revenge was after that of 
Iago, " Whether Briton killed Sikh, or Sikh 
killed Briton, or each do kill one another, 
either way makes my gain." She feared the 
Sikhs far more than the British. If victori- 
ous, the Khalsa would be engaged in plunder- 
ing India, and she would gain the credit ; 
if not, she could depend upon the British for 
life and generosity. At her instigation Eaja 
Lai Singh, a Brahman favourite, was made 
Wuzir, and another Brahman, Eaja Tej 
Singh, appointed commander-in-chief. The 
Dogra Eaja Gulab Singh, the last of the 
brothers who had taken such a prominent 



DECLINE OF SIKH MONARCHY. 133 

part in the policy of these revolutionary- 
times, held aloof and left the Khalsa to its 
doom. He thirsted for revenge on them 
for having killed so many of his family, but 
kept his head, biding his time to carry out 
his cherished design of independence. 

A council of sardars and military dele- 
gates was held in the end of November 1845 
to discuss the situation, when it was urged 
that unless something was done the Sikh 
power would collapse, and, as often happens 
in such cases, the something was fatuous — 
namely, the tragic error of violating the 
treaty with the British. The army was 
swept into the vortex of intrigue. There 
was a unanimous cry for war, and they be- 
came importunate to be led against the 
British — to the plunder of India. Some of 
the old Sikh sardars were averse to this, but 
they were powerless against the Court and 
the insolence of the soldiery. War was then 
declared without a shadow of provocation, 
and the order issued for the army to prepare 
to march. Now came a lull in revolution 



134 THE SIKHS. 

and assassination — the calm before the 
storm. The Khalsa prepared for the war 
with enthusiasm. They would take Delhi, 
sack it to pay off old scores, plunder the 
other rich cities of India, march to Calcutta 
and even to London ! They were as well 
armed as the British, and could bring on the 
ground a preponderating force of men and 
guns ; an initial victory would certainly be 
theirs, and then they would be joined by 
the Sikh states across the Sutlej. Such 
were their boasts. The glamour was soon 
dispelled. Only the iron hand of a Ranjit 
Singh could then have saved them from 
rushing to their ruin, but there was no one 
of such a calibre among them now. The 
chief sardars had gained affluence and lost 
moral force ; the army was venal ; and the 
arrogant ignorant punches, the military coun- 
cils, ruled the Khalsa, which, deprived of 
the guidance of the European officers whom 
they had discarded, dashed itself against 
the British ranks in fierce but unavailing 
efforts to overcome them. 



CHAPTER X, 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR WITH THE BRITISH, 1845-46. 



On the 11th December 1845 the Khalsa, 
confident of victory in all its pride of 
strength, crossed the Sutlej with 60,000 men 
and over 100 guns, and proceeded to invest 
the British garrison in Ferozepore, cutting 
off its line of communication before reliable 
information had reached British headquarters 
of the movement. While the Sikhs were 
concentrating on their side of the river, the 
Government of India, cautious to a fault, 
loth from political reasons to precipitate a 
collision, took no steps to strengthen their 
frontier posts of Ferozepore and Ludhiana 
beyond being ready to move up troops in 
case of actual aggression. These two posts, 
eighty miles apart, were each held by a 



136 THE SIKHS. 

division numbering between them 12,000 
men and 36 guns, while at Amballa, 160 
miles distant from Ferozepore, there was 
another strong division in support, the inter- 
vening country being practically roadless 
with a scanty water-supply. The enemy's 
plan of campaign was to cut off the British 
troops in detail by intercepting those coming 
up from the rear. Ferozepore, their objec- 
tive, was the nearest point to their base 
and the farthest from British support. 

Sir Henry Hardinge, the Governor-General 
of India, then in camp near Ludhiana, on 
hearing of the invasion of British territory 
declared war, and Sir Hugh Gough, Com- 
mander-in-Chief, marched on the 12th with 
the Amballa division, effected a junction 
on the way with that from Ludhiana, and by 
forced marches reached Moodkee, twenty 
miles distant from Ferozepore, on the 18th. 
On hearing of their approach the Sikhs 
moved out with 30,000 men and 40 guns 
to fall on them, hoping to fight only one 
division, but found that as the result of 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 137 

magnificent marching they were faced by- 
two, numbering 11,000 men and 42 guns. 
This force had just concluded a long tedious 
march over sandy tracks when the informa- 
tion was received that the enemy was ad- 
vancing in strength. They rapidly prepared 
for action at 4 p.m. The Sikhs took up a 
strong position among low sandhills in bush 
jungle and opened fire. The British horse 
artillery and cavalry vigorously assailed 
them in flank, and sweeping along their 
rear routed their cavalry, while they were 
attacked in front by the field-guns sup- 
porting the infantry, which, charging with 
the bayonet, drove them from position after 
position with great slaughter, and captured 
17 guns. The Sikhs fought fiercely and 
retired sullenly in good order, seizing every 
opportunity to turn on their foes. Night 
only saved them from worse disaster. They 
retreated in the darkness to their main 
camp at Ferozeshah, ten miles off, which 
was strongly intrenched. They had tasted 
of British resolution and steel, and knew 



138 THE SIKHS. 

what to expect. They now laboured night 
and day to further strengthen their position, 
which consisted of a parallelogram one mile 
long by half a mile broad, surrounded by a 
ditch and earthworks ten feet high. 

Reinforcements having reached the British 
army on the 19th, it was decided to follow 
up the victory of Moodkee by an immediate 
attack on this formidable work. Delay was 
dangerous ; no further reinforcements could 
arrive for some time, and a decisive blow 
had to be struck to keep the protected Sikh 
states true to their allegiance. The invested 
Ferozepore division by a masterly movement 
effected a junction with the Commander-in- 
Chief near the enemy's work at Ferozeshah 
on the afternoon of the 21st, bringing his 
force up to 17,000 men and 69 guns ; and 
although there only remained three hours 
to sunset and the troops had been marching 
since early morning, it was resolved to de- 
liver the assault at once. In the words of 
the despatch, " a very heavy cannonade was 
opened by the enemy, who had dispersed over 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 



139 



the position upwards of 100 guns, more than 
40 of which were of battering calibre. These 
kept up a heavy and well-directed fire, 
which the practice from our far less numer- 
ous artillery of much lighter metal checked 
in some degree but could not silence ; finally 
in the face of a storm of shot and shell our 
infantry advanced and carried these formid- 
able intrenchments : they threw themselves 
upon the guns with matchless gallantry, and 
wrested them from the enemy ; but when 
the batteries were partially within our grasp 
our soldiery had to face such a fire of 
musketry from the Sikh infantry arrayed 
behind their guns, that in spite of the most 
heroic efforts a portion only of the intrench- 
ments could be carried. Night fell while 
the conflict was everywhere raging/' The 
British attack on the left was repulsed, but 
a firm foothold was secured in the centre 
and right, despite fierce hand-to-hand fight- 
ing, when again and again the Sikh batteries 
were charged and the gunners bayoneted. 
The reserve division was brought up. " The 



140 THE SIKHS. 

3rd Light Dragoons with a troop of horse 
artillery charged over the intrenchments, 
cutting down the gunners of some batteries 
which still kept up their deadly showers, 
dashed among the infantry and swept 
through the Sikh camp ; yet the brave 
dogged enemy remained in possession of a 
considerable portion of the position, whilst 
oar troops, mingled with theirs, kept pos- 
session of the remainder and bivouacked 
upon it, wellnigh exhausted by their gallant 
struggles, greatly reduced in numbers, and 
suffering severely from thirst and intense 
cold, but still animated with an indomitable 
spirit. In this state of things the long 
night (the longest in the year) wore away." 
The Governor-General, General Sir Henry 
Hardinge, a Peninsula veteran, who chival- 
rously served with the army as second in 
command, in a letter to Sir Robert Peel, 
the Prime Minister of the day, graphically 
described the situation : " The night of the 
21st was the most extraordinary of my life. 
I bivouacked with the men without food or 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 141 

covering, and our nights are very cold — a 
burning camp in our front, our brave fellows 
lying down under a heavy cannonade, which 
continued during the whole night — mixed 
with the wild cry of the Sikhs our English 
hurrah, the tramp of men, and the groans 
of the dying. In this state, wdth a handful 
of men who had carried the batteries the 
night before, I remained till morning, taking 
very short intervals of rest by lying down 
with various regiments in succession to 
ascertain their temper and revive their 
spirits. I found myself again with my old 
friends of the 29th, 31st, 50th, and 9th 
(regiments which had served in the Penin- 
sula), all in good heart. My answer to all 
and every man was that we must fight it 
out, attack the enemy vigorously at day- 
break, beat him, or die honourably in the 
field. When morning broke we went at 
it in true English style." Headed by Sir 
Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough, the 
infantry in line, supported by horse artillery, 
advanced steadily, unchecked by the enemy's 



142 THE SIKHS. 

fire, without a halt, from one end of the 
Sikh camp to the other, capturing more 
guns as they went along, which were served 
obstinately to the last, and dislodging the 
enemy from the whole position. The 
line then halted "as if on a day of 
manoeuvre/' receiving their leaders as they 
rode down its front with a hearty cheer, 
and displaying the captured standards of 
the Khalsa army, which was now in Ml 
retreat to the Sutlej, having lost 73 guns 
and several thousands of their numbers, 
and abandoned all their camp equipage and 
stores. The great object of checking the 
advance of the Sikhs had been accomplished 
by invincible energy and unbending deter- 
mination. 

The British casualties in these two actions 
of the 18th and 21st December amounted 
to about one -fifth of their number, the 
English troops suffering most in propor- 
tion, as the enemy specially directed their 
fire on them. Generally they lost about 
one-third of their strength, exceeding that 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 143 

of many hard -fought battles in Spain, in 
which some of the corps engaged had taken 
part. The loss of the Sikhs was never 
accurately known, but it was estimated at 
from 5000 to 8000, the number of guns 
captured being 90. 

The battle of Ferozeshah was one of the 
most momentous, and certainly the hardest 
fought-out one, ever engaged in by the 
British in India. It has been said that 
the Sikhs then shook our Indian Empire to 
its base : the British soldiers, however, — 
true pillars of the Empire, — animated with 
all their prestige and pride of race, were 
strong and firmly rooted enough to stand 
the shock and uphold the fabric. The 
enemy were attacked at a late hour in the 
day when their force was divided, one 
portion being then still engaged in watching 
Ferozepore (probably intent on its plunder), 
where a small body of British was left 
intrenched, while the main portion, realising 
from their Moodkee experience the danger 
of fighting in the open, remained on the 



144 THE SIKHS. 

defensive within their earthworks, which 
they were actively engaged in strengthening. 
The British leaders knew the danger of 
even one night's delay, which might bring 
fatal consequences : a battle at once was 
absolutely necessary. They were obliged 
to be the assailants, and thus to incur 
heavy loss at the commencement ; but they 
relied on the bravery and discipline of their 
men to make amends for disadvantages, and 
well were they justified. They had con- 
fidence in themselves and in one another; 
their disparity in numbers only made them 
act as if every man felt that the result 
depended on his own single conduct. They 
were conscious of their instinctive soldiership 
at close quarters and inspired with un- 
bounded audacity. The attacking brigades 
were formed of an English regiment in the 
centre with a native one on each flank : the 
white-capped English corps formed the steel 
head of the lances which penetrated the 
Sikh works, marking out the path for their 
native comrades, hence their greater loss 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 145 

from the brunt of the righting falling on 
them. 

After Ferozeshah the British force took 
up positions near the Sutlej, and there 
awaited the reinforcements of all arms which 
were now moving up from India, preparatory 
to advancing on Lahore. The Sikhs rallied 
on the right bank of the river and com- 
menced energetically to prepare to renew 
the contest. Though twice sorely defeated 
they were not subdued ; they were yet 
destined to suffer on other " stricken fields " 
before they were left without excuse for 
defeat — without hope of recovery. With 
large bodies of well-trained old soldiers who 
joined them, and a fresh supply of guns 
from their arsenals, they became almost as 
strong as before. Under the direction of 
a Spanish officer they threw up batteries 
and extensive earthworks on both banks 
in a skilfully chosen position at a loop of 
the river, connected by a bridge of boats 
and a ford. Having lost all their great 
store of food-supplies their army delegates 



146 THE SIKHS. 

were sent to Lahore to demand more from 
the Durbar, as they were starving, and also 
to induce the Dogra Eaja Gulab Singh to 
join them with his Dogra troops. They 
offered to make him Wuzir though not a 
Sikh, and to despatch their Brahman leaders, 
whom they distrusted ; but he thought of 
himself, of his slain brothers and sons, and 
of the fickle Khalsa. He had undertaken 
the office of Minister after the defeat of 
Ferozeshah, and opened negotiations for 
peace ; but when told the first demand of 
the British Government was the immediate 
disbandment of the Sikh army, he declared 
he was helpless to effect it, as he could not 
deal with the turbulent soldiery. He now 
cajoled the deputies, temporised, and col- 
lected supplies. The Maharani, however, 
was getting desperate ; the Khalsa was 
on her nerves ; she was in terror at the 
thought of their returning. She with the 
little Maharaja Duleep Singh received the 
deputation in Durbar, and heard their 
appeal. She upbraided them as cowards, 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 147 

took off part of her dress and threw it 
among them, saying, "This is your dress. 
Remain at home ; I will go and fight." 
The resolve to get them destroyed was 
known to them, but such was the stern 
democratic discipline of their army councils, 
such their devotion to their warlike faith, 
that determination even now animated every 
man. They fiercely reproached her and 
her courtiers. Addressing the Maharaja, 
they said, "We will go and die for you, 
your kingdom, and the Khalsaji " ; but to 
the others who had incited them to war 
and now taunted them with their folly in 
hoping to vanquish the conquerors of Hin- 
dostan, "We will leave you to answer to 
your God and your Guru, while we, deserted 
and betrayed as we are, will do what we 
can to preserve the independence of our 
country." 

From this time on the Sikhs fought with 
doom against them. They now made a 
further effort upon the Upper Sutlej, which 
they crossed with 15,000 men and 67 guns 



148 THE SIKHS. 

to invest Ludhiana and cut off its com- 
munications. They met with some slight 
success at first, but a British force of 11,000 
men and 32 guns sent from headquarters 
camp and Amballa having concentrated in 
that quarter relieved Ludhiana, and attacked 
the enemy at Aliwal on the 28th January 
1846, signally defeating them, capturing their 
guns, and driving them over the river with 
severe loss. The Sikhs took up a strong 
semicircular position, within which was the 
village of Aliwal, their flanks resting on the 
Sutlej. In front lay open undulating hard 
grass -land ; some manoeuvring took place 
on both sides previous to the action. The 
local conditions were ideal for a set battle 
as a trial of strength. " There was no dust ; 
the sun shone brightly, and the manoeuvres 
were performed with the celerity and pre- 
cision of the most correct field-day and with 
all the pomp of war." The enemy opened 
artillery-fire from his whole line upon the 
advancing British, who, throwing forward 
their right, captured at the point of the 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 149 

bayonet the village of Aliwal on the left 
of the position. The whole line then ad- 
vanced and the battle became general ; the 
British cavalry on the right flank charging 
that of the Sikhs, driving them on to their 
infantry, while the British infantry attack- 
ing in front drove everything before it, 
capturing battery after battery. The enemy, 
driven back on his left and centre, held on 
to a village on his right covering the passage 
of the river. There stood Avitabele's French 
brigade, so called from its organiser, 4000 
strong with guns — the elite of the Sikh army. 
The 16th Lancers charged right through a 
square of their infantry, wheeling about and 
re-entering it to finish it off with the deadly 
lance. The Sikhs fought fiercely and with 
much resolution, maintaining hand-to-hand 
fighting. In one charge of their infantry 
upon the lancers they threw down their 
muskets and came on sword and shield in 
hand, after the manner of the Scottish clans- 
men, who were wont, when the decisive 
moment arrived, to drop their firelocks, draw 



150 THE SIKHS. 

their claymores, and rush upon the English 
dragoons. The British infantry concentrated 
upon the village held, carried it and the 
guns there, the remnants of Avitabele's 
brigade being driven to the river. The 
enemy, completely hemmed in, precipitated 
themselves in disordered masses into the 
boats and ford, while horse artillery gallop- 
ing up committed great havoc among them. 
The debris of the Sikh force appeared on the 
opposite bank in full flight to their base 
position there. Fifty -six guns were taken 
and the rest sunk in the river. The victory 
was complete. The conquerors fired a royal 
salute in its honour, which was repeated by 
the vanquished on the other side as their 
au revoir. The Sikh camp at Sobraon was 
soon made aware of the defeat by the sight 
of the many dead floating down the river. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE FIRST SIKH WAR Continued. 

The British troops now concentrated for the 
decisive struggle at Sobraon. On the 10th 
February 1846 the Sikh position there was 
attacked by a force of 15,000 men and 60 
guns. They took up their station for close 
action during a dense fog which clung over 
the ground ; when it rolled away under the 
rising sun the guns opened fire on the 
enemy's long line of strong intrenchments 
held by 35,000 men and 70 guns, mostly 
heavy, with a reserve in a strong position 
on the opposite bank of the Sutlej ; the 
Sikhs, on the alert, returned the fire 
steadily. After three hours' cannonading 
the order was given for the infantry to 
storm the works. On this, as a regimental 



152 THE SIKHS. 

historian has it, "wild and long was the 
shout as, amidst showers of grape and 
musketry, they dashed forward towards the 
ramparts of clay and wood, upwards of ten 
feet high, where nothing appeared to view 
but the muzzles of the guns, behind which 
the Sikh infantry, four deep, were lining 
the intrenchments." Though driven back 
by superior numbers to take shelter in the 
ravines and folds of the ground, they leapt 
forward again and again at the call of their 
regimental leaders, till they gained a footing 
by shouldering one another up to the em- 
brasures, capturing and spiking the guns in 
their front. The Sikhs fought stubbornly 
and desperately hand to hand, till at last 
the assailants, swarming through the breaches, 
mounted the ramparts with cheers of victory 
and took the whole line of intrenchments ; 
but not till the weight of all the three 
divisions, all the cavalry, and the fire of 
every gun was felt did the Sikhs give way. 
They slowly retired in good order under 
cover of interior works, harassed by in- 




REGULAR AND IRREGULAR INFANTRY— SIKH ARMY, 1845. 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 153 

cessant volleys of musketry ; but no Sikh 
offered to submit — no disciple of Govind 
asked for quarter. Everywhere they showed 
a bold front to the victors, whilst many 
rushed singly forth to meet assured death. 
Step by step they were forced back to the 
bridge of boats, which gave way under the 
pressure. The river had suddenly risen 
seven feet during the night, making the 
ford impassable. In the crowd many of 
their mounted officers, grey - bearded old 
chiefs, scorning to save themselves, were 
seen waving their swords on high, calling 
on their men to drive back the English, 
to vindicate their honour or die. Their 
heroic efforts to retrieve the day were of 
no avail ; destruction awaited them on 
every side. The horse artillery coming up 
poured in a hot fire among them ; terrible 
was the carnage, and thousands were 
drowned attempting to swim across. The 
Khalsa was disastrously routed ; 67 cannon, 
200 swivel guns, numerous standards, and 
vast munitions of war were the spoils of 



154 THE SIKHS. 

victory. Sir Henry Hardinge referred to 
it as " one of the most daring ever achieved, 
by which in open day a * triple line of 
breastworks, flanked by formidable redoubts, 
bristling with guns, manned by thirty -two 
regular regiments of infantry, were assaulted 
and carried." 

The British loss was 2400 killed and 
wounded, — about one - sixth of their force 
engaged, — that of the Sikhs in killed, 
wounded, and drowned being estimated at 
10,000. Some of the English regiments, 
on whom the brunt of the fighting fell, 
lost one-third of their strength. 

On the following day a party of Sikhs 
came in with a request to take away the 
bodies of their slain chiefs, among them 
that of Sardar Sham Singh, whose death 
they all deplored, a comrade of Eanjit 
Singh and an experienced and gallant old 
soldier. He had opposed the ill-fated cry 
of war against the British, but, unheeded 
in Council, threw in his lot with the Khalsa 
when the die was cast, and at the head of 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 155 

his men joined the army. At Sobraon he 
announced his determination not to survive 
another defeat, which he feared more than 
death. Dressed in white clothes, he was, 
with his long flowing white beard, con- 
spicuous on the ramparts cheering on his 
ardent followers, directing the gunners where 
to fire on the English soldiers, confident, if 
they were destroyed, the day was gained. 
He fell honoured by his gallant opponents. 
His wife, a high-spirited Sikh dame, on 
hearing at her home of the defeat of the 
Khalsa, without waiting for details, im- 
molated herself on the funeral pyre, as she 
said she knew her lord was dead, he having 
assured her he would not disgrace his family 
by returning defeated. 

On the night of the victory at Sobraon 
advanced brigades were pushed across the 
river, and by the 13th the whole force was 
over and marching to the capital, which 
was reached without opposition within a 
week. The shattered remnant of the Sikh 
army retired and halted near Lahore, ready 



156 THE SIKHS. 

to lay down their arms. Within the short 
period of sixty days from the time when 
the Sikhs crossed the Sutlej so confident 
of victory, the British force, far inferior in 
numbers of men and guns, but superior in 
everything which makes for success, had 
defeated the flower of the great Khalsa in 
four well - fought - out pitched battles and 
wrested from them in action 220 guns, 
while only 14,000 of that derelict army 
now remained in the field. The much- 
plundered city of Lahore was amazed to 
find that it was spared from pillage, and 
to hear that the British had committed no 
outrages during their victorious march and 
scrupulously paid for everything they took. 
There was now nothing left to encourage 
the Sikhs to continue the contest ; they had 
been well and fairly beaten, but they had 
forgot nothing of their praetorian pride. 
Their vanity was mortally wounded, so they 
raised the cry of treachery and turned on 
their Brahman leaders, to whom they ascribed 
all their disasters. They had, however, 



THE FIRST SI1 



r AR. 



157 



learned a good deal and unlearned much 
regarding the British ; but, as was shown 
later on, they were not yet subdued, al- 
though they had found out that it was not 
bravery, of which they had plenty, nor 
numbers and good arms alone, that made 
a successful army, but also good generals 
and good leaders. An old Sikh soldier 
remarked to an English officer after the 
battle, "If we only had had your sahibs 
[officers] to lead and direct us in the way 
they did your soldiers, there would have 
been another story to tell." 

The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in 
the House of Commons, when proposing the 
thanks of Parliament to the Indian Army of 
the Sutlej, spoke enthusiastically of their 
victories, interrupted by no single failure, 
— unsullied by any imputations on our arms 
or character, — and quoted from a letter to 
him the generous tribute of their brave 
veteran chief to the gallant foe : " Policy 
precluded me from publicly recording my 
sentiments on the splendid gallantry of our 



158 THE SIKHS. 

fallen foe, or to record the acts of heroism 
displayed not only individually but almost 
collectively by the Sikh sardars and army; 
and I declare, were it not from a deep 
conviction that my country's good de- 
manded the sacrifice, I could have wept 
to witness the fearful slaughter of so de- 
voted a body of men." 

The Sikh army — the weapon which Ranjit 
Singh had so well forged — turned against 
his best friends, the British, who met in it 
the hardest fighting enemy they had en- 
countered in the Bast, and whose gallantry 
and steadiness in action excited the admira- 
tion of their opponents just as that of their 
remote ancestors the Getae or Indo-Scythic 
warriors at Arbela, twenty -two centuries 
before, when fighting under Darius against 
the Macedonian phalanx, drew forth the 
praise of the great Alexander. The names 
of Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Aliwal, and So- 
braon have rung in history. A great tradi- 
tion connected with the rise of our Indian 
Empire hovers round them, immortalising 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 159 

the unsurpassed example of unflinching 
courage set by the British soldier. They 
are emblazoned alongside other glorious 
battle - scrolls on the colours of the dis- 
tinguished regiments who so nobly main- 
tained on the banks of the Sutlej the high 
reputation of those before them in building 
up England's power. 

Ranjit Singh's star set in red anarchy. 
Anti- British feeling ever since his death 
prevailed as the remedy to distract the 
Khalsa. The moment they thought was 
favourable to take the fatal step to occupy 
the Ois- Sutlej Sikh states, to rally their 
population to the blood-and-plunder cry. 
The British were nearly caught by their 
own unwillingness to move — to believe that 
the Khalsa was in earnest. Dilatory mea- 
sures to move up troops to meet the menace 
being deemed expedient by the political 
authorities, the strong men armed were 
within our gates when the assembly sounded ; 
but hard marching, and the devotion of the 
British soldier in response to (rough's stern 



160 THE SIKHS. 

appeal to close with the enemy, saved the 
situation. He stood eye to eye in front of 
an active strong power having greater ele- 
ments at his back and in our own territory. 
The Sikh giant commenced the fight by de- 
livering with his fist a solid blow full in the 
Briton's face. It was quickly and strongly 
returned, and he was grievously worsted. 
The problem Sir Hugh Gough had to deal 
with was to confine the war to the banks 
of the Sutlej. It was more of a soldier's 
war than a general's. He did not attempt 
to bring off strategical movements in the 
nature of evading the enemy, to fall on him 
unawares or force him to shift his ground 
to fight. He had few but very good troops. 
Support was far off ; his main object was 
to meet the enemy and fight, — the harder 
the fighting the better, in order by bold 
tactics to shorten the war, — and he suc- 
ceeded. At every stage he was greatly out- 
numbered ; he saw that a stubborn foe 
behind works was not to be beaten down 
by his own inferior gun-fire, their guns being 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 161 

far more numerous, heavier, and well served. 
The keynote of his tactics was a bold in- 
trepid charge — close quarters and the 
bayonet — to impress the enemy by audacity 
and daring. He clung with bulldog tenacity 
to the Sikhs after Ferozeshah, rejecting pro- 
posals to harry their rear over the river, 
waiting to deal a final knock-out blow when 
his force was refreshed, so as to leave farther 
advance unopposed. After this had been 
done our friends in rear and ahead were as 
thick as flies in summer. He was essentially 
a fighting general, a hard hitter, whose 
maxim was "L'audace, toujours Taudace." 
He grasped success. The generals, among 
them veterans of the Peninsula, Waterloo, 
and Afghanistan, were first and foremost in 
the thick of battle, exposing their lives 
freely and rousing the daring of their men 
to the utmost by personal example, several 
of them falling "in the rapture of the strife," 
cheering on to victory. With a small de- 
termined force it was the only decisive form 
of conducting the campaign, and every one 



162 THE SIKHS. 

was inspired by the direct spirit of their 
gallant chief. It made a great impression 
on the Sikhs, who would have extended the 
area of operations had strategical manoeuv- 
ring been resorted to. They found that, 
whether in the open field or behind formid- 
able works, they had met more than their 
match. 

Immediately after the crushing defeat at 
Sobraon, the Lahore durbar, with all the 
Sikh sardars and army delegates, sued for 
peace on any terms, and the young Ma- 
haraja, with Raja Gulab Singh, came into 
the British camp to submit in the name of 
his Government. The work of the soldier 
having been completed and the enemy made 
amenable to reason at the point of the 
bayonet, a thick velvet glove was now put 
on the iron hand and generous terms dic- 
tated. By a treaty ratified in March 1846 
the Maharaja was restored to the throne, the 
country between the Sutlej and Bias rivers 
ceded to the British, and a war indemnity 
of one and a half millions sterling imposed ; 



THE FIRST SIKH WAR. 163 

but as this amount was not forthcoming 
from an empty treasury, the hill country 
north of the plains of the Punjab was also 
ceded as an equivalent for one million. The 
regular army of the Lahore State was not 
to exceed twenty -five infantry battalions 
with 12,000 cavalry, to be paid and organ- 
ised under the system which existed in the 
time of Ranjit Singh, the guns remain- 
ing in the arsenal being left to them. 
250 guns, including all that had been 
pointed against the British, were marched 
off to Calcutta under escort, to be seen 
by all India as the spoils of battle and 
victory. 

At the urgent request of the Durbar, who 
feared the disbanded Khalsa army, a British 
force of 10,000 men was left till the close of 
the year for the protection of the Maharaja 
and the city of Lahore, pending reorganisa- 
tion of the Government and their army, 
which time was afterwards, on a special 
appeal signed by fifty-two of the chief sar- 
dars, by a new treaty in December 1846, 



164 THE SIKHS. 

extended reluctantly by the Governor-Gen- 
eral until the Maharaja should attain his 
majority in 1854. The British Government 
invested the Dogra Eaja Gulab Singh with 
the title of Maharaja, and in consideration 
of his paying out of his wealth, amassed 
during the troublous times, one million ster- 
ling of the war indemnity for the im- 
poverished Durbar, Kashmir with its de- 
pendencies was transferred to him as in- 
dependent ruler and vassal of the British 
— a very bad bargain for the Government, 
which unfortunately was rendered necessary 
by the political exigency of the moment. 
He, however, now reaped what he had sown 
by craft, and attained the object of all the 
diplomacy and bloodshed of his family since 
the death of his patron Ranjit Singh, The 
Maharani Jindan was acknowledged as 
queen-regent of the state, with her minion 
Raja Lai Singh as executive minister, and 
Major Henry Lawrence was left in charge 
of political affairs at Lahore with a voice 
in the Durbar. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE SECOND SIKH WAR, 1848-49 ANNEXATION, 

1849. 

The policy of maintaining the Sikh kingdom 
was considered highly important, but the 
attempt to govern by a British protectorate 
broke down after a fair trial. The evil 
seeds of disintegration were in the Sikhs 
themselves. The Durbar was corrupt, weak, 
and divided against itself. Before the year 
was out the minister Lai Singh was caught 
red-handed in treachery. After the order 
was issued for the transfer of Kashmir to 
Maharaja Golab Singh according to the 
treaty, he sent letters to the governor 
there to resist this by force. Several con- 
flicts ensued ; and not till Colonel Henry 
Lawrence proceeded there, at the head of a 



166 THE SIKHS. 

body of Sikh troops who had been so lately 
fighting against us, was the transfer effected. 
Lai Singh was proved guilty by the pro- 
duction of his own letters ; not a voice 
was raised for him, and he was banished 
to his native land in Hindostan. 

A Council of Kegency of the principal 
chiefs was now formed under the direction 
of the British Resident ; but at the Lahore 
Court the witches' caldron, brimful with 
intrigue, again began to bubble. The 
queen - regent had hoped that everything 
except the dread Khalsa would have been 
restored to her as before the war. She 
bitterly resented the expulsion of her 
favourite minister, the arch - traitor Lai 
Singh, and after a short time the sardars 
also came to repent of the treaty they had 
made. Faithlessness to the too merciful 
British Government was encouraged ; an 
army and guns still remained to them ; 
disaffection was excited among the soldiery 
and the disbanded Khalsa, who swarmed, dis- 
contented, in the villages. The new wine, 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 167 

in the form of English officers sent by the 
Eegency Council to various parts of the 
country to see orders obeyed, burst the 
old bottles of Sikh government, which had 
so long held methods of barbarism. The 
climax came in April 1848, when the 
reformed Durbar was forced to interfere 
with Mul Raj, the rapacious Hindu Governor 
of Multan, whose tyranny could not be 
tolerated under the eye of the British 
protectorate. He resigned, and a Sikh 
sardar was sent to relieve him, accom- 
panied by two English officers — Mr Vans 
Agnew of the Civil Service and Lieutenant 
Anderson, with an escort of Durbar troops 
— to see him installed. They were treacher- 
ously wounded while returning from the fort 
with Mul Raj on his giving over the keys, 
and shortly afterwards murdered by some of 
his soldiers. Only the new Sikh Governor, 
his son, a few faithful horsemen, and some 
servants remained with them to the end, 
the escort having gone over to the enemy. 
They scorned to wave the white sheet of 



168 THE SIKHS. 

submission, Vans Agnew saying : " The time 
for mercy has gone ; let none be asked for. 
They can kill us two if they like, but we 
are not the last of the English. Thousands 
of Englishmen will come here after we are 
gone and annihilate Mul Eaj and his soldiers 
and his fort." The loyal Sikh sardar Kahan 
Singh and his son were imprisoned, and 
taunted with showing sympathy for the 
foreigners. When the fort was ultimately 
captured by the British, their dead bodies 
were found in the ruins of their prison 
clasped in one another's arms. 

Mul Raj declared war against the British, 
and, gathering a force of some thousands, 
put his fort in a state of defence by 
making a deep ditch lined with masonry 
round a wall thirty feet high. Great im- 
portance was attached to the possession of 
this celebrated old stronghold for which so 
many battles had been fought in ancient 
and modern times — the scene of one of 
the great Alexander's exploits on his 
march down the Indus valley, where, lead- 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 169 

ing the victorious Greek assault, he was 
severely wounded. The Mahomedan tribes 
in the neighbourhood had no love for the 
Sikh rule. They rallied to the summons 
of a young English officer, Lieutenant 
Edwardes, then in charge of the Derajat 
frontier, and twice sorely defeated the 
rebels, shutting them up in the city and 
fort. Sardar Sher Singh, one of the Court 
of Regency, sent down with 12,000 men 
and 12 guns, joined Edward es ; but they 
were unreliable. 

The very hot summer was on in that 
hottest of hot localities in the Punjab ; the 
proceedings of the Durbar were dilatory, 
and when told by the British Resident 
that the rebellion must be put down they 
professed their inability to undertake the 
task. A division of British troops was 
then sent : they reached the scene in 
August, when after some severe fighting 
they found the fort too strong to be suc- 
cessfully attacked, and took up a position 
awaiting reinforcements. Sher Singh with 



170 THE SIKHS. 

his Sikh force went over to the enemy 
in September, and before the end of the 
month left them, marching away north to 
join his father, Sardar Chutter Singh, the 
Sikh Governor of Hazara, who in August 
had revolted with all his troops. Not till 
December, when the British force at Multan 
was joined by a division from Bombay, was 
the siege vigorously resumed, ending by 
the capture of the city and surrender of 
the fort on 22nd January 1849, after a loss 
by them of 1200 killed and wounded. The 
bodies of the two murdered English officers 
were then taken from their neglected grave, 
wrapped in Kashmir shawls, carried up 
through the breach by the thousands of 
their countrymen who had come to avenge 
their death, and buried with military 
honours on the summit of the citadel. 

The delay before Multan changed a local 
emeute into the rebellion of the whole Sikh 
nation, which now rose to re-establish the 
supremacy of the Khalsa and shake off 
the hold of the British, thinking that as 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 



they had abandoned Kabul some years 
before, so they would march out of the 
Punjab. The Maharani had not been idle 
at Lahore ; she was mixed up with in- 
trigues which demanded the sternest 
measures against the ringleaders, one of 
them being her confidential adviser : she 
was banished to India. Overtures for aid 
had been made by Mul Raj and the Sikh 
sardars to the Amir Dost Mahomed, the 
price being the cession of Peshawar, the 
province which Ranjit Singh had won from 
the Afghans, and for which his best had so 
freely shed their blood. The Amir marched 
there and sent his son with a contingent 
of Afghan troops to join the Sikh army, — 
an unnatural alliance between hereditary 
enemies, which drowned for a time creed 
antipathies. The Durbar troops at Pesha- 
war now revolted and joined the rebels. 

Sher Singh with his troops took up a 
position on the Chenab river, where the 
Khalsa in their thousands joined him. The 
Punjab was now aflame ; the trumpet again 



172 THE SIKHS. 

spoke to the cannon, and the sound of battle 
rolled through the land. A rising took 
place of discontented leaders in the ceded 
districts, of which John Lawrence was 
Commissioner. The rebels proclaimed that 
the English rule had ceased. They were 
on the flank of the British army advancing 
from Lahore. Lawrence, with the genius 
of a born general, was promptly on the 
spot with a small force and some raw 
levies. "If you will excite rebellion, as 
I live I will severely punish you," was his 
dictum. He made short work of them, 
and then offered the people the choice be- 
tween the sword and the pen as the instru- 
ment by which they wished to be ruled, 
— between enforced submission or willing 
obedience. His pen was grasped with 
enthusiasm, and the sword was sheathed 
and kept in reserve. 

The Sikhs held the fords of the Chenab 
river and threw up strong works at Ram- 
nugger on both banks to oppose the ad- 
vance of the British under Lord Gough. 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 173 

After severe fighting there and some de- 
sultory operations elsewhere, the passage 
was effected, and by the end of December 
all the British force had crossed to the 
north bank to drive the enemy towards 
the Jhelum and hold him in check, while 
waiting for the fall of Multan to set free 
more troops to join it. 

Sher Singh showed considerable general- 
ship in handling his army, now about 
40,000 strong with over 60 guns. He took 
up a well-chosen position near the Jhelum, 
close to the classic field of Alexander's 
great battle with Porus in 32^ b.c, and 
as the revolted Sikh troops were now 
marching from Peshawar to join him, Lord 
Gough determined to engage before they 
arrived. On the 13th January 1849 he 
advanced with 15,000 men and 66 guns 
to Chillianwala, where he drove in their 
advanced outposts, intending to halt there, 
reconnoitre, and attack the following day. 
Sher Singh, however, under cover of a long 
belt of jungle which lay in front of his posi- 



174 THE SIKHS. 

tion, moved out with all his force and 
cleverly manoeuvred to bring on an action at 
once on ground of his own choosing, which 
afforded little opportunity for cavalry, and 
where with his superior numbers he could 
overlap the flanks of his enemy. After 
an hour's artillery duel a general advance 
of the British line was made in the after- 
noon. Lord Gough again took the bull by 
the horns, and, as was expressed on a 
previous occasion, found it "all horns." 
The dense patches of thorny bush which 
screened the Sikhs broke the ordered ad- 
vance of brigades, and the battle devolved 
into a series of detached combats — regiments 
singly forcing their way through the jungle 
to the open spaces, where they suddenly 
found themselves face to face with the 
enemy's guns and infantry massed by them. 
Then followed the volley, the cheer, the 
run upon the cannon's mouth, and fierce 
hand - to - hand fighting : gunners were 
bayonetted serving their guns to the last, 
and their infantry, in many cases after de- 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR 175 

livering their fire, dropped their firelocks 
and met the bayonet charge sword in hand, 
answering the "hurrah" with the Khalsa 
war-cry. One English regiment had sixty 
casualties from sword-cuts in capturing a 
battery, but the bayonet triumphed over 
the sword. The fight was waged with 
varying fortune in different parts of the 
field ; each side could claim some success. 
From want of knowledge of the ground 
surprises awaited the British here and 
there. An impassable swamp, beyond which 
was posted a battery, effectually checked 
the advance of a brigade, which had to 
retire with heavy loss, but the other on 
its flank forged ahead and repaired the loss. 
The Sikhs fought gallantly and doggedly, 
as they did on the Sutlej. When their 
regular infantry retired they did so in good 
order, loading, halting, and turning to fire 
as if on parade : they belonged to the 
old well-trained Khalsa brigades, big, long- 
bearded men, clad in red coats. Darkness 
alone put an end to the deadly hurly-burly, 



176 THE SIKHS. 

— to another soldiers' battle fought under 
the most adverse circumstances. 

The Sikhs withdrew towards the Jhelum, 
retired within their prepared position 
masked by the jungle, and there fired a 
royal salute of victory, while the British 
bivouacked on the field of Chillianwala. 
Both sides sustained severe loss, that of the 
British being about 16 per cent of the force 
engaged, individual units suffering more 
severely than others, some dropping one- 
third and even one-half of their numbers. 
Heavy rain for the two following days pre- 
vented further operations, and on the third 
day the Sikh reinforcements joined. For a 
month the two armies lay facing one another, 
Sher Singh during that time making ineffect- 
ual attempts to induce his opponent to move 
out of his position, which covered the routes 
to the Chenab in rear. In the meantime 
Multan had fallen, and troops were marching 
up from there to reinforce the British. On 
hearing of their approach Sher Singh skil- 
fully made a flank march by night along the 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 177 

front, and got a start of a day in an attempt 
to cross the Chenab farther up and make for 
Lahore ; but on rinding the fords guarded, 
took up a position round the town of Gujerat, 
where he concentrated 61,000 men and 60 
guns, the finest and best commanded force 
the Sikhs ever assembled against us. 

Lord Gough, having been reinforced, at- 
tacked the Sikh army early on the morning 
of the 21st February with 25,000 men and 
96 guns, being for the first time in the two 
campaigns superior in artillery. The enemy's 
full power was now massed in front of him, 
prepared to fight a pitched battle. The 
blow that was to be struck would be all the 
more effective if dealt deliberately, without 
leaving anything to chance. For three 
hours all the British guns did deadly exe- 
cution in the Sikh ranks, which they en- 
dured with stern resolution and tried their 
best to meet. In vain their infantry and 
cavalry attempted to advance to the attack ; 
their bravery was of no avail against the 
murderous artillery - fire. Indian irregular 

M 



178 THE SIKHS. 

horse charged and routed the Afghan cavalry. 
When the Sikh guns were nearly silenced a 
general advance of the British line swept the 
field, capturing 53 guns and all the camp 
with its materiel. The British casualties 
were 800, those of the Sikhs 7000. 

The Sikh army had now been smashed on 
thoroughly scientific principles : no mistake 
was possible as to the decisive character of 
their defeat. Completely routed, they broke 
away in full flight to the north, pursued by 
the relentless cavalry, which inflicted further 
execution on them. A column of 12,000 
men was promptly sent across the Jhelum 
to follow the wreck of the army and gather 
up all the fruits of victory. Sher Singh sent 
in to the British camp the English officers 
he had as prisoners, who had been taken 
when on duty with the Durbar troops. 
They had been well treated. He asked for 
terms, and received the reply, Unconditional 
surrender. The shattered Khalsa, flying 
north, were now nearing the Pathan country, 
where little mercy would be shown them by 
their hereditary foes. They were between 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 179 

the devil ahead and the deep sea rolling 
up behind them : annihilation was inevit- 
able unless they accepted the British terms. 
On the 12th March 1849 they surrendered 
unconditionally. The Afghan contingent, 
after losing half their numbers, deserted 
their allies, and were hotly pursued by 
the British cavalry through Peshawar and 
driven into the Khaibar Pass. 

At Rawal Pindi Raja Sher Singh, the Sikh 
commander-in-chief, with his sardars, one 
by one gave up their swords to the British 
general, and their men following grounded 
their arms at the victor's feet — most in 
gloomy silence, some in passionate tears on 
throwing down their cherished weapons, 
some reverently saluting them as they 
placed them on the ground, others mutter- 
ing curses at their hard fate — all proud in 
bearing. They frankly acknowledged that 
they had been well and fairly beaten, and 
that now their cause was hopeless. They 
had been worthy and gallant foes, and were 
respected in their misfortune by their con- 
querors, who did not use their victory to 



180 THE SIKHS. 

humiliate them. The rank and file were 
furnished with means of returning to their 
homes. Back to their villages they went to 
toil, — to the plough again, — not as con- 
quered enemies, but as free subjects of the 
Great Queen Victoria, to enjoy the same 
protection and privileges as the others under 
the British Crown. They would remain the 
same men as before ; they had tasted of the 
salt of life, and its savour would never leave 
them. They had shed their blood in what 
they considered a good cause, and loyalty was 
still theirs to give, as we found so soon later 
on, when it was kindled anew after they re- 
cognised the spirit in which we met them and 
willingly grasped the hand held out to them. 
With the crushing defeat of Gujerat per- 
ished the last hopes of resuscitating the Sikh 
kingdom. It was the final act of the tragedy 
which commenced on the banks of the Sut- 
lej. The last stake had now been played 
and lost in a war exclusively of their own 
making. They had fought the British on 
more than equal terms ; they were the first 



THE SECOND SIKH WAR. 181 

to draw the sword, and they were the first 
to lay it down and end the contest for 
supremacy by manly submission. 

On the 1st February Lord Dalhousie, the 
Governor-General, always definite and spe- 
cific in his ideas, declared that "the peace 
and vital interests of the British Empire 
now require that the power of the Sikh 
Government should not only be defeated but 
subverted, and their dynasty abolished/ 7 In 
his words, the victory gained at Gujerat 
was " memorable from the greatness of the 
occasion, and from the brilliant and decisive 
nature of the encounter, — it equalled the 
highest hopes entertained." On the 29th 
March 1849 he proclaimed that "the king- 
dom of the Punjab is at an end, and that 
the territories of Maharaja Ranjit Singh are 
now and henceforth a portion of the British 
Empire in India." All the inhabitants of 
the Punjab, sardars and people, were called 
upon to submit themselves peacefully to the 
authority of the British Government. " Over 
those who shall live as obedient and peaceful 



182 THE SIKHS. 

subjects the British Government will rule 
with mildness and beneficence, but if resist- 
ance to constituted authority shall again be 
attempted, if violence and turbulence are 
renewed, the Governor - General warns the 
people of the Punjab that the time for 
leniency will then have passed away, and 
that their offences will be punished with 
prompt and most vigorous severity." 

The Sikh government went the way of all 
governments which will not learn to rule 
intelligently. The whole of the Punjab came 
under the British flag, which now waved 
over the continent of India from the sea 
to the Himalaya and Sulaiman Mountains. 
Little was it thought then of what the near 
future had in store for this land of soldiers. 
A few years later, when the storm of the 
great mutiny of the Bengal army suddenly 
burst as a bolt from the blue, the Sikhs 
were again in the field, but this time as 
loyal soldiers of their honoured Queen 
Victoria, fighting in her cause alongside 
their English comrades. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



THE 'GRANTH, THE SIKH SACRED BOOK- 
RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES. 



The 'Grants is the holy scripture of the 
Sikhs, containing spiritual and moral teach- 
ing. Its leading creed may be summed up 
in the words, The one God is a spirit, and 
is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. 
It is written in verses, measured by quantity 
only, in the form of psalms, chants, and 
songs of praise. They rhyme together, in- 
tended for singing or intoned rhythmical 
recitation, great attention being paid to the 
rhyme. They are sung in public worship, 
especially in the Hur-mandar (the House of 
the Lord) at Amritsar, accompanied by 
stringed musical instruments. The book is 
written in the Punjabi dialect spoken by 



184 THE SIKHS. 

the people of the plains, with a mixture 
of Hindi idioms, — the character, a modified 
Hindi one, being called " Guru-mukhi " (out 
of the mouth of the Guru), used by the 
Sikhs in correspondence. All classes and 
castes are represented among the contribu- 
tors besides the Gurus, — Hindu reformers, 
Brahmans, Jats, musicians, weavers, a Ma- 
homedan saint, a holy woman, down to 
members even of lowly and despised castes, 
Nanak having preached, "God will not 
ask man of what caste or race he is ; He 
will ask him what he has done." 

The 'Adi-Granth/ the book of the humble 
Nanak, is held the most sacred, as the foun- 
dation of the Sikh religion. It was compiled 
by Arjun, the fifth Guru. After him a few 
verses only were added from the succeeding 
Gurus — a message from Tegh Bahadur, the 
martyr, while in prison at Delhi, to his son 
Govind, and the reply. The s Granth of the 
Tenth King/ as it is called, that of Guru 
Govind Singh, concerns chiefly the cere- 
monial and social duties of his disciples — 




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THE 'GRANTH: 185 

the Khalsa — and the practical course of 
their life. 

The Sikh religion as it was founded by 
JNanak was a pure monotheism, the chief 
point in his doctrine being the unity of 
the Supreme Being. That the Supreme is 
One, and that there is none other, is over 
and over again inculcated by him. 

" Whom shall I call the second ? there is none. 
In all is that one spotless One." 

He alone, he said, is really existing, un- 
created, endless, timeless, invisible, and in- 
describable — the Eoot of all things, the 
Source from which all have sprung. 

" He Himself is One, and He Himself is many." 
" From the Lord all the creation has sprung. By Himself 
the vessels are formed : He Himself also fills them." 

Nanak's constant theme was personal love 
for a personal God, "More love to thee, 
God." He strove to win his hearers to 
love and trust God, who claimed them as 
His creatures, to learn His sufficiency for 
all and everything. Scattered throughout 



186 THE SIKHS. 

the book are phrases like flashes of light, 
many of which parallel sentences in our 
own Scriptures, these thoughts and ideas 
being repeated in endless variations running 
into mystic darkness. Such phrases are : 
"Thou art my support, Thou art my trust, 
without Thee there is none other." " Wan- 
dering and wandering about, I have come 
and fallen in Thy asylum, Lord." " Thou 
art my Lord, I am at Thy gate — Lord, 
this is the prayer of Nanak, apply me to 
Thy worship." " Thou alone art the support 
of the helpless one, Thou art my strong 
protector." " What happiness shall I obtain 
without God ? whose friend and beloved the 
Lord is, say, what may that man stand in 
need of?" "Our confidence is placed in 
God ; He is my refuge — without Him I 
have not other assistance or reliance." 
"Thou art my friend and companion, my 
Lord, why should my soul be afraid." 
" True is the Lord, of a true name ; in 
language His love is infinite. ISTanak, 
His worshippers are always happy." " Great 



THE 'GRANTW 187 

is the Lord, of a great name, by whom 
creation is made. Higher than high is 
His name. His praise is continually in my 
mouth." "I sing the many and innumer- 
able excellences of God ; outside I sing, 
inside I sing, waking early I sing." "The 
Lord is merciful to the poor ; Thou art my 
refuge. Thou art my hope." "Keep the 
eternal Lord in thy heart." "Who art on 
intimate terms with God, they remain fully 
satisfied with food." 

" Thou art the Creator, true my Lord, — 
What is pleasing to Thee, that will be done ; 
What Thou givest, that I obtain ; 
Without Thee there is none other." 

" Their faces are always bright in the true court of God." 

There is much expressed regarding humil- 
ity and the transitory nature of life, with 
its vanity, pride, egotism, idolatry, and mal- 
practices : — 

" Think not of caste : abase thyself and 
attain to salvation." " brother, thy body 
and prosperity will not go with thee after 
death." "Man is but as the passing shade 



188 THE SIKHS. 

of the flying bird." " Wealth, youth, and a 
flower are guests for four days." "I may 
fasten a crown, royal hat and umbrella, on 
my head, I may be called a khan, king, or 
raja, but without God I am nothing." 

" Who dwells in the house of the true one 
death shall not overcome. Who does crores 
[millions] of religious works but retains his 
selfishness, he incurs only fatigue. All his 
works are in vain." "The Lord is the 
strength of the weak. He neither comes 
nor goes. He is always firm." "At the 
last moment, Nanak, none but God is any 
avail." " Fall at the feet of God ; in sense- 
less stone God is not ; worship not another 
than God ; bow not to the dead." 

Although Nanak always spoke humbly of 
himself and confessed himself unlearned and 
the lowest of learners, the high position 
which the Guru occupied naturally led to his 
deification, and his disciples commenced to 
identify his successors with the Supreme 
Himself. It was therefore a fortunate event 
for the more free and moral development of 



THE 'GRANTH: 189 

the Sikh community that with the tenth 
Guru, Govind Singh, the Guruship was alto- 
gether abolished. Govind apparently dis- 
cerned this. By developing a religious 
commonwealth he saved the Sikhs from 
sinking into a state of dull apathy to the 
world around them, to drifting into a com- 
munity of monks, jogis, and fakirs. JSTanak 
ever enjoined his disciples to remain in their 
secular occupations and not to leave the 
world, — that their religion was one of 
common life. He taught that the state 
of a householder was equally acceptable to 
God as retirement from the world ; that 
salvation did not depend on outward circum- 
stances, or in the performance of austerities, 
but on the inward state of the mind, which 
even in the daily business of life may remain 
absorbed in meditation on God. The evil 
practices of mendicant fakirs as well as the 
superstitions of the Brahman priesthood are 
frequently exposed in the 'Granth ? and 
severely censured. His sound sense as well 
as that of Govind Singh saw that austerities, 



190 THE SIKHS. 

self- mortification, and penances in such a 
land soon degenerate a race. "No confi- 
dence whatever should be placed in jogis" 
(ascetics). 

JSTanak received all men as his disciples 
on an equality regardless of caste, for "in 
the other world there is no caste." Govind 
Singh finally abolished caste among his 
disciples, though the deeply-rooted preju- 
dices of the higher castes refused to submit 
to this. He positively forbade the employ- 
ment of Brahman priests in any capacity. 
He introduced a new ritual, partly taken 
from the ' Adi-Granth/ but mostly originat- 
ing with himself. He appealed to the God 
of battles in his combat for a righteous 
cause, to defend his people against persecu- 
tion, in his determination to form a nation, 
which he saw could not be effected unless 
they made the study of arms their aim 
and glory. Nanak the humble strove by 
personal example to inspire his disciples to 
live worthily, and after death to leave behind 
them the memory of a righteous life and good 



THE 'GRANTW 191 

deeds, the only passports for the better life 
beyond. 

In spite of all the abstruse definitions of 
the 'Granth,' the common people were con- 
tented to accept Nanak's definition of God, 
adapted for their everyday life and to meet 
inward and outward wants. The mystical 
speculations contained in the book as to the 
" higher form" and the secret were beyond 
their comprehension, but its teaching gradu- 
ally " turned them from idols to serve the 
living God," and impressed them with the 
idea of one Supreme Lord, whom they could 
only realise as a personal, self-conscious 
Supreme Being, who creates all, governs all, 
and dispenses all according to His will. 

Govind Singh did not make any change 
in the teaching of Nanak. He made the 
worship of the one Supreme obligatory 
and denounced idolatry. The additions he 
made in his 'Granth' are mainly regarding 
the duties of the Khalsa — the Commonwealth 
which he established. He received into it 
men of all castes and creeds on a footing 



192 THE SIKHS. 

of equality, and aimed at welding them 
into one religious and political body. To 
effect this he set up a number of ordinances 
binding on all. 

In a Sikh household on the thirteenth day 
after a boy is born the father takes him to a 
Granthi (Scripture reader), who, after reading 
certain portions of the 'Granth/ solemnly 
lets it fall open wherever it chances. He 
then looks at the heading of the stanza 
where it opens, and its initial letter must 
be the initial of the boy's name, which is 
then selected from the stock of names which 
they have commencing with every letter of 
their alphabet. The pahal or Sikh oath of 
initiation may be administered to a boy 
when he reaches an intelligent age — at 
twelve or so — or at any age afterwards. 
There must be five Sikhs present to make 
this lawful. The candidate is dressed in a 
white tunic, and in the ketch or tight white 
drawers reaching half way down to the knee, 
and is girt with a sword. The 1st chapter of 
the 'Adi-Granth ? and Govind's 'Granth' are 



THE 'GRANTH: 193 

read to him. He is then asked if he con- 
sents to be of the faith of Govind ; on the 
reply, " I do consent," he is addressed, " The 
Guru is thy holy teacher and thou art his 
Sikh/' and a solemn promise demanded from 
him to abide by the canons of the faith for 
the rest of his life. Then follows the cere- 
mony already described in the chapter 
relating to Guru Govind Singh, of sprinkling 
a mixture of sugar -and -water, called amrit 
(water of life), on his head and face, and 
of drinking some of it out of the iron dish, 
exclaiming, " Wah, Guru ji ka Khalsa ! 
Wah, Guru ji ka fatteh ! " — Hail, Guru of 
the Khalsa ! Hail, victory to the Guru ! 
The warrior designation of " Singh " is then 
added to his name. He is now a Govindhi 
Sikh, and is commanded to wear always 
about him certain outward signs of the 
brotherhood, and directed how to keep and 
care for his kes, the long hair worn by Sikhs, 
how to knot it into the jurah knot on the 
top of the head, and which has to be taken 
down and combed out twice a-day. He is 

N 



194 THE SIKHS. 

forbidden to cut or dye his hair or beard, 
to eat or drink uncovered, and to smoke or 
touch tobacco. 

Every disciple is also enjoined to daily 
repeat some portion of the holy book. There 
are three prayers appointed for daily use : 
one in the morning before breaking fast, 
one before the evening meal, and one be- 
fore going to rest. Idolatry, the worship 
of saints, and asceticism are prohibited. 
Hindu and Mahomedan ceremonies and re- 
ligious books are not to be minded. He 
must never buy meat from a butcher, but 
eat only the flesh of such animals whose 
head was severed by a Sikh with a stroke 
of the sword. Beef is not so much as 
mentioned, as to eat it is considered an 
abominable crime, — sacrilege, — the cow 
being venerated as the favoured animal 
of the Almighty, whose preservation is a 
religious obligation, since it is so useful 
to man ^for domestic and agricultural pur- 
poses. The Govindhi Sikh adheres religi- 
ously to the command never to cut his 



THE 'GRANTH: 195 

hair. He will not even submit to this for 
a surgical operation, preferring to risk death. 
There is an old tomb extant outside Lahore, 
at a spot called "the place of martyrdom/' 
in memory of a brave old chief, a companion 
of Govind's, who with 1000 Sikhs was 
captured by the Moghuls during the cruel 
persecutions in 1746. He was offered par- 
don on condition of having his long hair 
cut and renouncing his faith. He in- 
dignantly refused, saying, "The hair, the 
scalp, and the skull have a mutual connec- 
tion. The head is linked with life, and I 
am prepared to yield it with pleasure." 
He and the 1000 Sikhs were all beheaded 
there and then. 

Special attention is paid to the making 
and distributing of karah prasad, or con- 
secrated bread, at their assemblies for ad- 
ministering baptism or other occasions, 
partaking of the character of a communion 
service. It is made of equal quantities of 
flour, butter, and sugar, mixed with water 
drawn from a well with an iron bucket 



196 THE SIKHS. 

and placed in a new jar. When prepared 
it is blessed and put on a stand round 
which the disciples sit praying, after which 
it is distributed by the Granthi, or Scripture 
reader, in equal portions to all present to 
eat. This is the love -feast of the brother- 
hood, when, according to Govind's injunction, 
"all must eat together and drink together 
from the same cup." 

Every Sikh is enjoined to aid in the 
diffusion of the religion, and is not to 
have intercourse with the sectarians, of 
which several classes arose. They were 
accursed, and were to be treated as im- 
placable foes of the faith. There are many 
other injunctions as to conduct and family 
matters, which Govind Singh insisted on as 
essential to rendering the Khalsa a select 
body, and to kindle their martial valour 
and hatred to the Mahomedans, whom he 
looked upon as the powerful persecutors 
of his race and the one bar against the 
attainment of religious freedom and national 
ambition. 



THE 'GRANTW 197 

One of the dogmas of the faith is equality 
of mankind, but this extends rather to 
religious tenets than to social laws. All 
Sikhs will eat consecrated bread and drink 
water one from another's hand except from 
the lowest classes, where caste is measured 
by occupation ; but they will not inter- 
marry. Each caste occupies a social posi- 
tion of its own, partaking more of family 
or race pride than of religious usage. It 
is maintained among the Jats mainly as a 
matrimonial system, social custom not per- 
mitting a man to seek a bride among the 
members of his own sub-clan. He must go 
afield to other septs of his tribe for a wife. 

Among the Sikhs births and deaths should 
take place on the ground. The impress of 
their origin is still strongly maintained in 
their regard for the " Mother Earth," the 
ancient honoured deity. The strongest 
phrase to denote a human being is liter- 
ally earth. "From one Mother is the 
world born." In the house, as soon as 
death approaches, the patient is taken off 



198 THE SIKHS. 

the bed and laid upon wheat -straw which 
has been spread on the ground. The dead 
body is carried to the funeral pyre on a 
wooden frame and placed on it with the 
head to the north, five Sikhs or more 
being present. The nearest relative takes 
a torch, and after walking three times round 
the pile of wood sets fire to it under the 
head. The earliest record of burning the 
dead is among the ancient Scythians, with 
whom the idea of purification by fire was 
universal. 

Just as in the middle ages the strong 
nations of the West emerged from the bonds 
of religious superstition, so the Sikh refor- 
matory movement took its rise at the same 
time, breaking away from the thraldom of 
the Brahman priesthood. It had its origin 
in small and peaceful beginnings on the 
part of humble preachers, — a low - class 
movement, conversion, not conquest, being 
its object. But cruel persecution gave it 
the impetus which culminated in secular 
power and kingship. The religion having 




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D 

< 



THE i granth: 



199 



no venerable history like that of Hindu, 
Budhist, and Moslem, it has had much to 
contend with since the Khalsa lost its 
position as a ruling class fifty years ago ; 
and for a time there was the danger under 
the powerful influence of Brahmanism, 
directed to overcome such a levelling 
simple faith, of it drifting into a back- 
water of Hinduism. But its robust strength 
has outlived this danger, and, according to 
the recent census of India, the Sikhs have 
increased considerably during the last de- 
cade. In a will case lately before the 
Punjab law courts, the decision was that 
the Sikhs at the present time are regarded 
only as a sect of Hindus ; but the local Sikh 
organ, 'The Khalsa/ — its policy being to 
maintain the original reformed religion 
and worship of the Sikh Church, — pro- 
tested that Sikhism differs widely from 
Hinduism in fundamental doctrine ; that 
Sikhs do not consider themselves Hindus, 
and do not respect the Hindu pantheon or 
observe their religious rites ; that Nanak, 



200 



THE SIKHS. 



though born in a Hindu family, was not 
a Hindu, but established an independent 
religious sect of his own ; and that " the 
day is not distant when thousands of Sikhs 
will be found disowning Hinduism com- 
pletely, and priding in the name Sikh, just 
as converts to Islam and Christianity feel 
pride in calling themselves Muslims and 
Christians, and break off all connection 
with the creeds to which they previously 
belonged." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE SIKHS UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 

The decisive element in ensuring future 
tranquillity and contentment in the Punjab 
after the annexation was the unequivocal 
nature of the British triumph, the liberal 
treatment of the vanquished, and the 
generous recognition of those sardars and 
others who had remained loyal to the treaty 
with the English protectorate. The great 
healing influence among the people was 
the knowledge that their lands were secured 
to them. The formidable Sikh army, which 
it had required so many hard-fought battles 
to subdue, was disbanded, and the turbulent 
soldiery settled down to industrial pursuits. 
They laid aside their national ambition and 
all schemes of hopeless political combination, 



202 THE SIKHS. 

and quietly accepted the new order of 
things ; but their subjugation by no means 
signified their national annihilation. Re- 
ligious liberty for all was proclaimed, and 
it was recognised to be a healthy and good 
thing for the Sikhs to maintain fidelity to 
the instincts and traditions of their religi- 
ous convictions, which were not inconsistent 
with sincere allegiance to the British Crown ; 
to maintain their sentiment of nationality 
in the form of subordinate patriotism ; to 
keep in their recollection those elements 
which had contributed to the moral strength 
of the Sikh nation ; and to preserve the 
character and enterprise engendered in their 
race by the trials they underwent in early 
times. 

The Punjab recovered from the long- 
continued ravages of war with surprising 
rapidity. For good the old order changed, 
giving place to the new. Security for life 
and property following on disarmament 
soon reigned throughout the land. The 
growth of materia] prosperity among the 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 203 

people diverted their minds from the stormy- 
past to assured hope of justice, peace, and 
plenty under a strong Government — to the 
protection afforded for the development of 
the many good qualities in them. Oppress- 
ive taxation was abolished, the land-tax 
reduced far below what it formerly was, 
and simple courts established in which the 
laws were administered with equal justice 
to all. Eoads were made throughout the 
length and breadth of the province, and 
canals set agoing which made the waste 
places to blossom. 

" Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war." 

The ground-plan of the policy of Sir John 
Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner, was to 
maintain the status as he found it — to 
restore nothing that the Sikhs had taken. 
The chiefs were maintained in their states, 
and jagirs held were continued. By his 
character, firmness, and ability he soon 
won the confidence of all the people. He 
took them by the hand, he saw with their 



204 THE SIKHS. 

eyes, he thought with their hearts, and 
gave them improvements that they really 
wanted, not those which it might be con- 
sidered they ought to want. This was the 
secret of his great personal influence, which 
secured for him a grip over the affection 
of the people that the events of 1857 did 
not loosen, but on the contrary strengthened. 
He proved the truth of an old Persian pro- 
verb, "To a just king his rayats [peasants] 
are an army," when a few years later he 
called forth an army from among them. 
He could not have commanded the Punjab 
and given it its place in the Empire had 
he not thoroughly understood the people 
and been in the closest sympathy with 
their characteristic traits, although at the 
same time he never allowed his sensibility 
to run away with his sense. It was this 
firm foundation on which the Punjab ad- 
ministration was built that enabled it to 
weather the storm which beat so fiercely 
on it in 1857. 

A happy consequence of our wars with 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 205 

the Sikhs was that we learned their great 
value as soldiers when mutual respect was 
won by valour in the field. After the first 
war some Sikh regiments were raised for 
our service, and after the annexation Sikhs 
were freely enlisted in the Frontier Force, 
and also in some regiments of the Bengal 
army, where they were not, however, 
welcomed by the Brahman fraternity, who 
resented intrusion on their own preserves 
as tending to break up their solidarity. 
One of the local Sikh battalions volunteered 
and was sent on active service to Burma 
during the war there in 1852, the vanguard 
of that movement for service over-sea to 
distant parts of the Empire which has 
characterised the Sikhs ever since. 

In May 1857 occurred the great crisis 
of the revolt of the Bengal native army, 
which for a time threatened to overwhelm 
the British power in Upper India. Mischief 
was known to be brewing, but it was little 
suspected that the whole of that army was 
honeycombed with sedition and ready to 



206 THE SIKHS. 

throw off its allegiance. On the 12th of 
the month, " like a thunderbolt from a clear 
sky/' a message was flashed along the wire 
to Lahore that the native troops at Meerut 
and Delhi had revolted, and that the ancient 
seat of Moghul empire was in the hands of 
the mutineers. At that time there were at 
scattered stations in the Punjab 10,500 
English troops and 58,000 native ; of the 
latter 36,000 were of the Bengal army, now 
known not to be trusted, the rest being 
Punjabi irregulars and military police, who 
not only stood true to their salt, but took 
a prominent part in suppressing the revolt. 

Now was reaped the "rich blessing of 
Lawrence's vigorous and beneficent rule." 
The people under him were prosperous and 
contented ; at the same time the outlook at 
first for the British was almost hopeless, but 
by prompt decision and action he saved the 
day, and his assured resolute manner restored 
confidence. The Punjab was not only quiet 
but actively loyal. The men who had so 
recently been our stoutest foes were now 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 207 

our staunchest friends, and in their splendid 
loyalty side by side with English soldiers 
beat down the Mutiny. 

Within twenty-four hours after receipt of 
the startling news from Delhi the Bengal 
troops at Lahore, watching for the signal 
to rise, were disarmed ; the forts there 
and at Govindgarh, Amritsar (the key of 
the Manjha, the Sikh home-land), secured, 
as also those at Ferozepore and Philor with 
the arsenals, while Sir John Lawrence per- 
sonally wrote to the ruling chiefs that now 
was the time to prove their loyalty. Nobly 
they declared for the British Government. 

The Sikh Raja of Kapurthala led 2000 
of his men to take the place of mutinied 
troops, and afterwards marched them down 
to Oudh to fight by our side. The Cis- 
Sutlej states were nearer Delhi, and within 
the influence of the insurrection ; but their 
Sikh chiefs did not hesitate to cast in 
their lot with the British Government, which 
had in old times thrown its mantle of pro- 
tection over them and preserved their in- 



208 THE SIKHS. 

dependence. The Raja of Jhind was the 
first in the field, declaring that he would 
abide by the British, under whom he had 
lived happily for fifty years. He cleared 
the road for the English troops advancing 
on Delhi. The Maharaja of Patiala supplied 
5000 men, and held the line of communica- 
tion between the Punjab and the British 
army before Delhi for a distance of 120 
miles. The Raja of Nabha, with 800 of 
his men, occupied for us the fort of 
Ludhiana and escorted the siege-train to 
Delhi. The petty Sikh chiefs complained 
of it as a grievance if they were not 
called on for our service. 

In the eyes of the Sikhs, Peshawar was 
the barometer of the strength of British 
power. It was the force of old habit in 
looking to the north, whence storms were 
wont to roll down on Lahore. " If Peshawar 
holds firm," said a wise old Sikh sardar, 
"all is well." He knew from experience 
what power it required to hold it firm in 
fair weather : if the British could do so 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 209 

in foul weather, all was safe. Lawrence's 
trusted lieutenants there, armed with the 
powerful factor of personal influence, aided 
the general in striking strong and quick 
blows at mutiny. Then the border Pathans 
at once appraised the situation and flocked 
to our standard. Three hundred Afridis of 
an outlawed clan were the first to come in, 
armed, begging to be forgiven and to be 
allowed to fight for us. They were incor- 
porated in a new regiment being raised. 
Sikhs also about Lahore and elsewhere 
came in to be enlisted. 

A movable column of picked men, English 
and Punjabi, was formed to patrol the 
country and dash down on the mutineers 
wherever they showed themselves. Terrible 
was the punishment inflicted on them. It 
was soon seen that the rebels at Delhi 
would receive no help from the Punjab. 
There was no more trouble from revolt 
in June. There were still, however, some 
18,000 men to be watched, 6000 of them 
armed, among whom mutiny again showed 

o 



210 THE SIKHS. 

its head in July, when they were nearly 
all destroyed or captured. By the end 
of July no more regiments remained to 
mutiny. Far below Delhi British power 
had almost disappeared : the few points 
held were like islets on the face of the 
dark waters of rebellion which had deluged 
the land. The rebel force at Delhi was 
now at its maximum — over 40,000 trained 
men holding that city, with 120 heavy guns 
on its walls, besides 60 field-guns, all of our 
own manufacture, manned by artillerymen 
from the revolted army. 

The hundredth anniversary of Plassey saw 
a small British force, under 4000 strong, 
holding the ridge overlooking Delhi. It 
was increased to about 7000 early in July; 
but as yet, though constantly engaged with 
the rebels, no impression had been made 
on the city or a single gun silenced. 
Strenuous efforts had been made to re- 
inforce it from the Punjab. The first to 
reach were the famous Guides of the 
Frontier Force, which marched 580 miles 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 211 

in twenty -two days, and signalised their 
arrival on the ridge by at once going into 
action : other corps of cavalry and infantry 
from the same force followed, pushing on 
with feverish alacrity to be in time, all 
animated with enthusiasm, which even in- 
fected the retired soldiers. It is related 
of an old Sikh officer, lately retired from 
the service, that hearing at his home of 
the Mutiny, and that his regiment was 
hurrying off to Delhi, he determined to 
rejoin it. The commandant found him 
waiting on the road with two swords by 
his side. He said he had come to com- 
mand his former company, and had brought 
two swords — one to break over the heads 
of the rebels in the service of the English 
Sarkar, and the other on his own account. 
He was allowed to resume his old position, 
and was badly wounded early in the siege. 
Having recovered, he was present at the 
final assault. His company fell in that 
morning at the head of the column, much 
to his delight ; but, owing to certain move- 



212 THE SIKHS. 

ments between the camp and the walls of 
the city, lost its place for a time. He 
rushed up to the commandant and loudly 
begged that the previous order of the 
companies should be restored, and that he 
should lead the attack. This was con- 
ceded, and the brave old warrior was 
killed an hour afterwards fighting among 
the foremost. 

Nothing could surpass the heroic daring, 
the dogged tenacity, and invincible fortitude 
under privation and disease of the little 
army, with its exposed flanks and open rear, 
so gallantly holding the ridge during the 
trying hot season. There was no question 
of falling back, — Delhi was the vital point 
of the struggle for supremacy. It was to 
be taken at all cost. 

Lawrence now sent on his movable column 
under Nicholson, his siege-train from Fer- 
ozepore, and the last English and Punjabi 
soldier that he could spare, keeping only a 
very small garrison in the Punjab, and then 
made his boldest venture by calling upon 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 213 

all the Sikh sardars to furnish soldiers of 
the old Khalsa army, adding, with a note 
of quiet resolution and self-reliance, " There 
must be no hesitation or delay on your 
part." By his vigour in beating down the 
enemy in the Punjab, in safeguarding it 
from the revolted sepoys, and in keeping 
the frontier inviolate, he had clearly de- 
monstrated that the English were yet strong 
to punish or reward. 

The time had now come for bold action 
in raising a new army to take the place of 
the old — to employ the fighting elements 
and banish dangerous temptation. The 
spirit of the Khalsa was roused by the scent 
of battle. They responded promptly to the 
summons and flocked to the British stand- 
ard, many of them bearing the scars of the 
recent struggle. Those who were too old 
to serve sent their sons in their stead. The 
new army rose phoenix -like amid the ashes 
of military revolt. 1 Regiments of cavalry 

1 This army was clad in the now familiar " khaki "-coloured 
uniform which has been adopted by the British army. 



214 THE SIKHS. 

and infantry were rapidly formed from the 
old Khalsa warriors and sent to the seat 
of war. A corps of Muzhabi Sikhs, 1200 
strong, was raised from the workmen on 
the canals to serve as sappers before Delhi, 
and old Sikh artillerymen, who a few years 
before had fought against us, were sent 
down to work the guns in the trenches, 
where one of their officers astonished the 
captain of his battery by remarking that 
the rebels would not have made such fools 
of themselves if like him they had lived for 
a " month in Vere Street, Oxford Street " ! 
He had been to London in the train of 
the Maharaja Duleep Singh, and had seen 
Britain's strength and resources, the object- 
lesson so epigrammatically expressed by 
Jung Bahadur, the great minister and ruler 
of Nepal, who had visited England, and who, 
when urged at that time to join in the effort 
to drive out the British, replied, "I have 
stood on London Bridge." 

The army before Delhi having been re- 
inforced by Nicholson's arrival, the assault 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 215 

was delivered with 5000 men on the 14th 
September, the anniversary of its capture 
by Lord Lake in 1803. After six days' 
severe righting, endured with stern resolve, 
the British flag was on the 20th hoisted 
on the royal palace, and the whole city, 
which had been held by 40,000 of the 
enemy, was in our possession. The Sikhs 
at last, as triumphant victors with the Eng- 
lish, stood on the spot where, 180 years 
before, their Guru, the father of Govind 
the Lion, met a martyr's death for refusing 
to abjure his faith. There was in exist- 
ence among them a popular belief that they 
would, in conjunction with "hat wearers" 
(the British) who should come over the sea, 
conquer Delhi, and place the head of the 
Emperor's son on the very spot where 
the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur had been 
exposed by order of the Great Moghul. 
A Sikh officer who was present when the 
old King of Delhi was captured and his 
two sons shot, diligently remembering the 
legend, almost literally secured its fulfil- 



216 THE SIKHS. 

ment, and for three days the bodies of 
the king's sons lay on the spot foretold, 
close to the place Where four months pre- 
viously they had ordered and witnessed the 
massacre of forty -nine Christian captives, 
nearly all women and children. 

The effect of the capture of Delhi was 
felt far and wide in the north, within 
and beyond the border. The Punjab had 
weathered the storm, and British prestige 
stood higher than ever. There was genuine 
rejoicing throughout the province, empha- 
sised when the spoils of war from captured 
Delhi began to reach the villages. The 
pick of their men, old and young, came in 
crowds to join the new regiments, which 
were marched down as fast as they were 
raised to aid in restoring British power be- 
yond Delhi. Upwards of 70,000 men were 
enlisted from the various races in the Pun- 
jab — Sikhs, Dogras, Pathans, and other 
Mahomedans, all differing in creed and cus- 
toms, having little in common but a desire 
to fight for the English Sarkar, over one- 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 217 

third of this number being Sikhs, mostly 
trained warriors, the most valuable of them 
all. Never had the Punjab been so quiet. 
The border Pathans and the Sikhs had now, 
far from home, their fill of fighting, and 
freely they shed their blood for us. 

While the battle was raging at Delhi the 
indomitable Havelock was fighting his way 
into Lucknow to relieve the beleaguered 
garrison there, a regiment of Sikhs forming 
part of his small devoted band. He effected 
this five days after Delhi fell. Sikhs from 
various mutinied Hindustani corps in Oudh 
had joined the little British force in the 
Eesidency and took their part in the famous 
defence. In far Bengal, Sikhs with our 
English troops were at the same time fight- 
ing against great odds, and the fine defence 
of a house at Arrah by some fifty of them 
with a few English civilians against vastly 
superior numbers of mutineers earned a 
special record for conspicuous gallantry. 
Even Sikh political exiles in Bengal aided 
our Government. Wherever the Sikhs were, 



218 THE SIKHS. 

they identified themselves with our cause 
and fought as lions of their race. 

Towards the close of the year Lucknow, 
which had become the great stronghold and 
focus of rebellion, was finally relieved by 
a force under Lord Clyde, including in it 
troops sent down from Delhi after its fall. 
On that occasion, in the magnificent rush 
on the Secundra Bagh, a strong position 
held by the enemy in great force, the Khalsa 
war-cry was heard mingled with the High- 
land pibroch summoning to the onset, when 
stern Scots and Sikhs, intent on coming to 
close quarters with the foe, raced together 
to be the first in at the breach, a mere hole 
in the wall, than which, in the words of Sir 
Colin Campbell, who witnessed the assault, 
" there never was a bolder feat of arms." 
Until the close of the long campaign in 
1859 the Sikhs were everywhere engaged 
alongside their British comrades in crushing 
out the rebellion. 

As to the part the Punjab played in 
the great crisis of 1857, when the rebels 




Q3RD HIGHLANDERS AND SIKHS STORMING THE SECUNDRA BAGH, 
LUCKNOW, 1857. 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 219 

made a leap for empire, Lord Canning 
well expressed it when, after peace was 
restored, he addressed the chiefs at Lahore, 
saying, u In other parts of India I have 
received many distinguished chiefs of 
ancient lineage who have proved them- 
selves faithful feudatories of the Crown, 
and many of lower degree who have 
been dutiful subjects in the midst of great 
discouragements and danger, but in the 
Punjab I find a whole nation of brave 
and loyal men." And the late Sir Charles 
Aitchison, a former Lieutenant-Governor of 
the Punjab, in his Life of Lord Lawrence 
wrote : " Certainly no troops ever fought 
more bravely or covered themselves with 
more glory than did the Punjab troops in 
our cause against the rebel sepoys. They 
shared with us the privations and diseases 
and dangers of the ridge, soldiers all day 
and sentinels all through the night. They 
shared in the glory of the assault. In 
the Oudh and Eohilkhund campaigns they 
were shoulder to shoulder with the best 



220 THE SIKHS. 

and bravest. They have sustained their 
reputation in many a hard -fought field 
since then. And what is more, there has 
sprung up in the Punjab a feeling of 
brotherhood to England and of loyalty to 
the Crown, which it will be our own 
fault if we alienate. In the spring of 
1885, when war with Russia was imminent 
and preparations were begun for an ex- 
pected campaign, many of the war-worn 
veterans of the Mutiny days came — with 
white hair and bent with the weight of 
years — to the present writer and laid their 
swords at his feet, recounting the favours 
and honours they had received, and beg- 
ging, though too old and battered to go 
themselves, that their sons might not be 
forgotten when the roll for service was 
called." The subordinate patriotism of the 
Sikhs then came strongly to the front, 
and a wave of enthusiastic loyalty ani- 
mated them at the prospect of war to 
oppose any attempt in India's direction. 
The military revolt of 1857, one of 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 221 

almost unequalled magnitude, was a gigan- 
tic effort to throw off our supremacy, 
which in the interests of civilisation it 
was our duty to maintain, and it needed 
the great struggle to bring home to all 
India the full significance of our mission 
there. The magnificent behaviour of the 
Punjab at that time, which so materially 
aided our cause, was a reflection of the 
generous treatment accorded to brave 
enemies and of their belief in our pres- 
tige, their loyalty being a matter of con- 
viction and of genuine feeling. 

When the Bengal army was reconstructed 
in 1860, the majority of the new regiments 
raised in the Punjab were incorporated in 
it. The Sikhs now started on a new ex- 
tended career. In that year they formed 
part of the force sent to China, a field 
which ever since has had great attrac- 
tions for them. Wherever during the last 
forty years the Indian army has served 
they have formed a valuable part of it. 
China, Abyssinia, Afghanistan, far Chitral, 



222 THE SIKHS. 

and Africa have been the scenes of their 
warlike exploits, where they proved that 
their martial ardour is as great as ever 
it was. They have penetrated to many 
parts of the vast African continent, East 
and West, where the British flag now flies, 
forming the backbone of local forces as 
legionaries of the Empire. Recently on the 
torrid plains of Somaliland a detachment 
of 200 of them fell to a man fighting 
against overwhelming numbers. To - day 
they are to the front amid the icy solitudes 
of high Thibet advancing our standard. 

In almost every coast town in the Malay 
States and in China they are engaged as 
soldiers and police, being in great demand 
there as courageous and reliable men. For 
service they will go anywhere, being with- 
out fear of the unknown. 

Though the Khalsa has ceased to be a 
political power, it has entwined its mili- 
tary force with a strong chord of loyalty 
and sympathy for the British Crown. The 
profession of arms remains within the 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 223 

stream of their national life, and the title 
" Singh " is still with them what it was 
in their palmy days, one of military 
honour and glory and a badge of in- 
dependence in religious thought. Their 
religion unquestionably encourages high 
moral and physical qualities. Whatever 
fighting they have set themselves to do 
for us they have done well. There is 
always an expectancy of great things from 
them, and they have done nothing to dis- 
pel this. 

A tragic but glorious incident of the 
Tirah frontier campaign five years ago was 
the fall of the picket post of Saragurhi on 
the Samana ridge, with its noble garrison 
of twenty -one Sikhs, who belonged to a 
regiment lately raised and then in action 
for the first time. Attacked and cut off 
by an overwhelming force of well-armed 
Afridis, the little band fought for six hours, 
holding the walls, and with steady fire 
repulsing the enemy again and again with 
much slaughter. They were well supplied 



224 THE SIKHS. 

with ammunition, but it was only a 
matter of time with the thousands of the 
assailants to crush them out. Slowly but 
surely reduced in numbers by the Afridi 
marksmen, they fought on till the walls 
fell and only one Sikh was left. He de- 
fended the guard -room door, and alone 
shot down twenty of the enemy. Fighting 
with his face to the foe, the guard -room 
being set on fire behind him, he perished 
in the flames. The Pathans admitted 
having had about 200 killed and many 
more wounded. Nobly did these sons of 
the Khalsa uphold the traditions of the 
race in a locality where in bygone years 
the Singhs had so often fought the 
Pathans, and where hereditary animosities 
still hold remorseless sway. Well may the 
Khalsa be proud of their children, and 
Britannia also of such brave soldiers who 
know how to die in her cause. A cairn 
on the site of the post, a prominent obe- 
lisk close by, and memorials at Amritsar 
and Ferozepore, keep alive the memory of 




SIKH CAVALRY AND INFANTRY OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS- 
INDIAN ARMY, 1903. (Service Dress.) 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 225 

that signal proof of Sikh bravery and 
boundless devotion to duty. 

They give far more proportionately to the 
Indian army than any other class of the 
population of India, and pass far more into 
the reserve after a few years' service with 
the colours. They are to be found in 
about eighty regiments, including those 
wholly Sikh and those in which they form 
a part. As military material they are ad- 
mirable. Possessing a strong individuality, 
inured to hard labour and exposure from 
their early youth, — leading a healthy open- 
air life in their hamlets and villages, for 
they do not affect towns, — their home 
training is one to develop physical powers 
and to fit them for the hardest service 
in the field as soldiers. They combine a 
fine physique with energy, due to climate, 
occupation, and the northern strain in 
their character, the legacy of the old 
stock from which they sprang. Freedom 
from the trammels of superstitious caste 
ceremonies as inculcated by their spiritual 

p 



226 THE SIKHS. 

guides, the stern and warlike nature of the 
iron creed of Guru Govind, the baptism of 
fire through which the nation passed in its 
early days, and the coherent rule of Eanjit 
Singh have undoubtedly stamped them with 
a national character, a marked trait in which 
is their reserved and self-respecting pride. 
Like Britons, the fighting spirit is built into 
them, and they do not lose it by years of 
peace. They still stand pre-eminent for 
military spirit and enterprise, proud of their 
order. 

They are genial in disposition and inde- 
pendent in character, from their associates 
being their equals and from living on the 
products of their own lands, — more earnest 
and stubborn, after the manner of plough- 
men, than impetuous, — better fitted for deeds 
requiring unflinching resistance, being gifted 
with a spirit which increases with adver- 
sity, and with bone to overcome difficulties. 
Frugality is very marked among them. A 
large part of the money spent on the army 
finds its way to the Punjabi villages, which, 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 227 

with what also comes from well-paid foreign 
service, are being steadily enriched, for the 
Sikh is too fond of his own country to settle 
abroad. All that can be saved goes to the 
homes. They do not waste money on the 
occasion of domestic ceremonies, as in other 
priest-ridden parts of India. As sons of 
the soil, the goal of their home ambition 
is land — more land and oxen to work it. 
Sikh wives are as free and independent as 
the men, and during the absence of the 
husbands remain at home in charge of affairs. 
On the annexation of the Punjab they were 
the first to appreciate the advantages of 
being subjects of the British Crown. When 
it became known that the English, who had 
conquered the Sikhs, were ruled by a Queen 
who was now their sovereign, they went in 
strongly for woman's rights and became a 
terror to tyrannical husbands. It is said 
that many a hard-fighting Sikh who had 
survived the battlefields found the scene of 
war shifted to his rebellious house, and again 
suffered grievous defeat. 



228 THE SIKHS. 

During the last decade the Sikh popula- 
tion has become more numerous — by 13 per 
cent ; and as the result of greater numbers 
of them being now enlisted, there has been 
an increase of those called Govindi Sikhs who 
have taken the pahal. They are held to make 
the best soldiers, the stern religious discip- 
line enjoined by Govind engendering self- 
command, self - respect, and obligation to 
duty unto death through the talismanic in- 
fluence of the Khalsa. When such as have 
not taken the pahal enlist, they generally do 
so at the hand of the Granthi or Scripture 
reader attached to every regiment in which 
Sikhs are in any numbers, and supported by 
them. They are the home missionaries of 
the Durbar Sahib, the headquarters church 
at Amritsar, who conduct religious services, 
read out the precepts of the i Granth/ collect 
money for the income of the church, and 
keep alive the Sikh national and religious 
sentiment. 

There was a remarkable demonstration of 
this sentiment at the great Durbar assemb- 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 229 

lage at Delhi in January 1903, when repre- 
sentatives of all races and castes were 
gathered together to hear King Edward 
VII. proclaimed Emperor of United India. 
At the suggestion of the venerable Raja 
of JNabha, a devout and devoted adher- 
ent of the Khalsa, the Sikhs decided to 
hold a memorial service to mark their 
peculiar sense of the deep significance of 
the Durbar by a solemn act of worship at 
the shrine of the martyr Guru Tegh Baha- 
dur, who, they said, 228 years before fore- 
told in the hour of his death the coming 
of the British Empire under which they 
enjoy religious freedom and personal pros- 
perous liberty. It was a spontaneous act 
of loyalty managed all among themselves. 
As the birthday of Guru Govind Singh, 
the son of the martyr, occurred on the 
6th January, it was decided to mark the 
day signally. The story of the martyr's 
death and prophecy was retold, and 
how this was the time and place to re- 
pledge their loyalty to the British, who 



230 THE SIKHS. 

under the guidance of God fulfilled the 
prophecy. 1 

A small temple in the chief street of Delhi 
marks the site of Tegh Bahadur's execution 
in 1675, A procession in all the panoply 
and pageantry of old feudal Sikh days pro- 
ceeded to this spot. It was formed of 
horsemen, banner-bearers, and the Sikh 
levies accompanying their chiefs, being 
followed by a carriage in which under a 
covering of gold was the sacred 'Granth/ 
the holy book. This was reverently lifted 
out and conveyed into the shrine, whilst 
to mark the special importance of the occa- 
sion the English national anthem, "God 
save the King ! " was played by the 
musicians. All the Sikh chiefs, sardars, 
and church dignitaries were there. It was 

1 According to Sikh tradition, Tegh Bahadur surrendered 
himself into the hands of the Moghul Emperor with full know- 
ledge that he was about to lay down his life for his people. 
But Aurungzebe hesitated to kill him, and sought by promises 
and threats to induce him to embrace Islam. At last, all such 
proving fruitless, he was brought before the Emperor on the 
charge of having raised his eyes from the prison walls to the 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 231 

a gathering of the nation, called together by 
their own leaders, and all knew what they 
were there for. Standing by the holy book, 
they, on behalf of all the Sikhs, with their 
martyred Guru present in spirit (they all 
believed that), renewed in each other's 
presence their vows of fealty to the King- 
Emperor. A sacred chant was then sung 
in which all joined, closing with their in- 
vocation to the Supreme Being, which was 
responded to by the loud shouts of the 
crowd. On the sacred 'Granth' being re- 
placed in the carriage, "God save the 
King ! " was again played, to emphasise the 
meaning of the ceremony which typified 
their loyal and sacred bond to British rule 

latticed windows of the palace zenana. He knew that this 
meant death, but he fearlessly answered, " If I have raised my 
eyes in the direction of thy zenana, it was not to look upon its 
forbidden windows but far beyond them into the mist, whence 
I saw armies of a fair-haired race pouring forth from beyond 
the seas who shall tear down thy purdahs and overthrow thine 
empire." This prophecy, according to the Sikhs, was fulfilled 
to the letter in 1857, when the small British force — 5000 to 
40,000 of their foes — shook down the treacherous throne of the 
Moghuls, an avenging act in which they also played a part. 



232 THE SIKHS. 

and the compelling force of the union which, 
according to their ideas, had been miracul- 
ously brought about. 

This striking incident is a significant proof 
of Sikh veneration and affection for the 
British Crown, the effect of which has 
doubtless been widespread. It marked their 
sense of identity of interest in being a co- 
ordinate unit in the majestic whole of the 
Empire, treading the same path under the 
guidance of Providence. It followed the im- 
portant ceremonial of the Durbar, the out- 
ward form of the great idea which so 
profoundly impressed them and touched 
their imaginations. 

The aged Raja of Nabha, who initiated 
the memorial service, was unable from the 
state of his health to come to the King- 
Emperor's coronation in London as a 
representative of the Punjab. He was 
a notable figure in the Sikh procession. 
Simply clad in white from head to foot, his 
long snowy beard adding to the dignity of 
his features, he alighted from his carriage 



I os fS? 







His Highness Raja Sir HEERA SINGH of Nabha, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E. 

Colonel of uth Ferozepore Sikhs, Indian Army, 1903. 

(a notable sikh chief.) 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 233 

some distance off from the shrine and walked 
on barefooted, with slow and solemn steps, 
through the crowd, who bowed reverently 
as he passed. A few days before, at the 
great Durbar held to hear the proclamation 
announcing the Coronation of his Majesty 
the King-Emperor of India, when all the 
chiefs tendered their felicitations and as- 
surances of homage to the Crown, he added 
to his the few eloquent words, "Now I 
can die in peace, as I have discharged the 
three duties of a true Sikh — I have lived 
according to the precepts of the Gurus, I 
have aided the State with my sword, and 
now I have paid personal homage to my 
sovereign." l 

The Sikhs are no longer illiterate as they 
were in the old days, when they despised 
the pen and looked on the sword as the 
one power in the land. Now they see that 
the pen is sometimes the more powerful of 

1 Contingents from the armies of the Sikh states have ever, 
from the days when they came under our protection, aided their 
suzerain in war. 



234 THE SIKHS. 

the two, and at least that education does 
not weaken the hand that wields the sword. 
Though nominally a minority — a powerful 
one — among the mass of the population in 
the Punjab, which in fact is more Mahomedan 
than Hindu, they are socially and politi- 
cally of the highest importance, as they 
constituted the dominant class at the time 
of the annexation, and still form the great 
majority of the gentry in the regions of 
the five rivers. Their military aristocracy 
supply the Indian army with excellent 
officers. They gather thickly in the dis- 
tricts round Amritsar, the Manjha, or 
middle home of the Sikh nation, the 
nursery of their most revered Gurus, their 
most powerful sardars, and Ranjit Singh's 
most redoubtable warriors. There a third 
of their numbers are now found, the rest 
being scattered in the Sutlej states and 
throughout the province ; large colonies of 
them having also recently settled along 
the new canals taken off from the rivers, 
running south through the extensive plains 



UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN. 235 

where the Jat tribes from time immem- 
orial roamed with their flocks and herds 
— plains of dormant fertility, which now 
with the magic touch of water produce 
splendid crops of golden grain. Railways 
have been made through the irrigated lands, 
and there numerous villages and towns have 
risen from which on a gala day, when a 
Viceroy or a Lieutenant-Governor visits 
them, thousands of old soldiers come forth 
wearing their be-medalled uniforms, — men 
whose sons follow their fathers as soldiers 
of the King - Emperor. These settlements 
form extended lines of defence, where the 
many owners of the small farmsteads may 
be depended on to fight for their own 
should the day ever come of invasion again 
from the north. They have no fear of in- 
vaders, whoever they may be. It remains 
true for all time that on a hardy spirited 
peasantry an empire's strength is stayed. 

Though the Punjab is not blessed by 
nature like the rich tropical Gangetic valley, 
it is fruitful in bold and enterprising men. 



236 THE SIKHS. 

This is the secret of its great prosperity 
at the present day. Nowhere in India are 
the peasantry more flourishing and con- 
tented, as it was Lord Lawrence's policy 
fifty years ago to make them — to become 
the bulwark of the Indian Empire in the 
north. His Royal Highness the late and 
lamented Prince Albert Victor of Wales, 
on his visit to Lahore in 1890, when re- 
plying to the address presented to him 
there, felicitously referred to the Punjab 
as "the soldiers 7 land," adding, " There is 
no province in India that can boast, as the 
Punjab can, that it is the bulwark of de- 
fence against foreign aggression, or that 
can be termed with the same significance 
the guard-room of the Eastern Empire." 



PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS. 





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